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S. G. and E. L. ELBERT 

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Written by Himself. 






















•BO. M. REWELL A CO., Cleveland, Ohio ; J. S. GOODMAN & CO., Chicago, Ixa.1 


Ran Francisco, Cal. 


copyrighted bt 

Park Publishing Co., 





Author's place of birth — Description of country — Its inhabitants — Gen- 
ealogical trees — Method of counting time in slave districts — Date of 
author's birth — Names of grandparents — Their cabin — Home with 
them — Slave practice of separating mothers from their children — 
Author's recollections of his mother — Who was his father?, 25 



Author's early home — Its charms — Author's ignorance of "old master" 
— His gradual perception of the truth concerning him — His relations 
to Col. Edward Lloyd — Author's removal to "old master's" home — 
His journey thence — His separation from his grandmother — His grief. . .28 



Col. Lloyd's plantation — Aunt Katy — Her Gruelty and ill-nature — Capt. 
Anthony's partiality to Aunt Katy— Allowance of food — Author's 
hunger — Unexpected rescue by his mother — The reproof of Aunt 
Katy — Sleep — A slave-mother's love — Author's inheritance — His 
mother's acquirements — Her death 33 



Home plantation of Colonel Lloyd — Its isolation — Its industries — The 
slave rule — Power of overseers — Author finds some enjoyment — 
Natural scenery — Sloop " Sally Lloyd" — "Wind mill — Slave quarter — 
"Old master's" house — Stables, store houses, etc., etc. — The great 
house — Its surroundings — Lloyd Burial-place — Superstition of slaves 
— Colonel Lloyd's wealth — Negro politeness — Doctor Copper — Captain 
Anthony — His family — Master Daniel Lloyd — His brothers — Social 
etiquette 39 




Increasing acquaintance with old master — Evils of unresisted passion- 
Apparent tenderness — A man of trouble — Custom of muttering to 
himself — Brutal outrage — A drunken overseer — Slaveholder's impa- 
tience — Wisdom of appeal — A base and selfish attempt to break up a 
courtship 48 


The author's early reflections on slavery — Aunt Jennie and Uncle Noah 
— Presentment of one day becoming a freeman — Conflict between an 
overseer and a slave woman — Advantage of resistance — Death of an 
overseer — Col. Lloyd's plantation home — Monthly distribution of food 
— Singing of slaves — An explanation — The slaves' food and clothing 
— Naked children — Life in the quarter — Sleeping places — not beds — 
Deprivation of sleep — Care of nursing babies — Ash cake — Contrast . . . .53 



Contrasts — Great House luxuries — Its hospitality — Entertainments — 
Fault-finding — Shameful humiliation of an old and faithful coachman 
—William Wilks — Curious incident — Expressed satisfaction not al- 
ways genuine — Reasons for suppressing the truth 61 


Austin Gore — Sketch of his character — Overseers as a class — Their 
peculiar characteristics — The marked individuality of Austin Gore — 
His sense of duty — Murder of poor Denby — Sensation — How Gore 
made his peace with Col. Lloyd — Other horrible murders — No laws 
for the protection of slaves possible of being enforced. 71 



Miss Lucretia — Her kindness — How it was manifested — "Ike" — A 
battle with him — Miss Lucretia's balsam — Bread — How it was obtained 
— Gleams of sunset amidst the general darkness — Suffering from cold 
— How we took our meal mush — Preparations for going to Baltimore 
— Delight at the change — Cousin Tom's opinion of Baltimore — Arrival 
there — Kind reception — Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Auld — Their son Tommy 
— il j re&tioas to them — My duties — A turning-point in my Ufa 78 




City annoyances — Plantation regrets — My mistress — Her history — Her 
kindness — My master — His sourness — My comforts — Increased sensi- 
tiveness — My occupation — Learning to read — Baneful effects of slave- 
holding on my dear, good mistress — Mr. Hugh forbids Mrs. Sophia to 
teach me further— Clouds gather on my bright prospects — Master 
Auld's exposition of the Philosophy of Slavery — City slaves — Country 
slaves — Contrasts — Exceptions — Mr. Hamilton's two slaves — Mrs. 
Hamilton's cruel treatment of them — Piteous aspect presented by them 
— No power to come between the slave and slaveholder 85 


My mistress — Her slaveholding duties — Their effects on her originally 
noble nature — The conflict in her mind — She opposes my learning to 
read — Too late — She had given me the " inch," I was resolved to take 
the "ell" — How I pursued my study to read — My tutors — What pro- 
gress I made — Slavery — What I heard said about it — Thirteen years 
old — Columbian orator — Dialogue — Speeches — Sheridan — Pitt — Lords 
Chatham and Fox — Knowledge increasing — Liberty — Singing — Sad- 
ness — Unhappiness of Mrs. Sophia — My hatred of slavery — One Upas 
tree overshadows us all 92 


Abolitionists spoken of — Eagerness to know the meaning of the word- 
Consults the dictionary — Incendiary information — The enigma solved 
— "Nat Turner" insurrection — Cholera — Religion — Methodist Minis- 
ter — Religious impressions — Father Lawson — His character and occu- 
pation — His influence over me — Our mutual attachment — New hopes 
and aspirations — Heavenly light — Two Irishmen on wharf — Conversa- 
tion with them— Learning to write — My aims 100 


Death of old Master's son Richard, speedily followed by that of old 
Master^- Valuation and. division of all the property, including the 
slaves — Sent for to come to Hillsborough to be valued and divided — 
Sad prospects and grief — Parting — Slaves have no voice in deciding 
their owa destin iea— General dread of falling into Master Andrew's 


hands — His drunkenness — Good fortune in falling to Miss Lucretia — 
She allows my return to Baltimore — Joy at Master Hugh's — Death of 
Miss Lucretia — Master Thomas Auld's second marriage — The new 
wife unlike the old — Again removed from Master Hugh's — Reasons 
for regret — Plan of escape 107 



St. Michaels and its inhabitants — Capt. Auld — His new wife — Suffer- 
ings from hunger — Forced to steal — Argument in vindication thereof 
— Southern camp-meeting — What Capt. Auld did there — Hopes — Sus- 
picions — The result — Faith and works at variance — Position in the 
church — Poor Cousin Henny — Methodist preachers — Their disregard 
of the slaves — One exception — Sabbath-school — How and by whom 
broken up — Sad change in my prospects — Covey, the negro-breaker. . .116 


Journey to Covey's — Meditations by the way — Covey's house — Family 
— Awkwardness as a field hand — A cruel beating — Why given — 
Description of Covey — First attempt at driving oxen — Hair-breadth 
escape — Ox and man alike property — Hard labor more effective than 
the whip for breaking down the spirit — Cunning and trickery of 
Covey — Family worship — Shocking and indecent contempt for chas- 
tity — Great mental agitation — Anguish beyond description 129 


Experience at Covey's summed up — First six months severer than the 
remaining six — Preliminaries to the change — Reasons for narrating 
the circumstances — Scene in the treading-yard — Author taken ill — 
Escapes to St. Michaels — The pursuit — Suffering in the woods — Talk 
with Master Thomas — His beating — Driven back to Covey's— The 
slaves never sick — Natural to expect them to feign sickness — Laziness 
of slaveholders 142 


A sleepless night — Return to Covey's — Punished by him — The chase 
defeated — Vengeance postponed — Musings in the woods — The alterna- 
tive^ — Deplorable spectacle — Night in the woods — Expected attach — 
Acsastsd by Sandy — A friend, not a master — Sandy's hospitality — 


The ash-cake supper — Interview with Sandy — His advice — Sandy a 
conjuror as well as a Christian — The magic root — Strange meeting 
with Covey — His manner — Covey's Sunday face — Author's defensive 
resolve — The fight — The victory, and its results 150 


Change of masters — Benefits derived by change — Fame of the fight with 
Covey — Reckless unconcern — Author's abhorence of slavery — Ability 
to read a cause of prejudice — The holidays — How spent — Sharp hit at 
slavery — Effects of holidays — Difference between Covey and Freeland 
— An irreligious master preferred to a religious one — Hard life at 
Covey's useful to the author — Improved condition does not bring con- 
tentment — Congenial society at Freeland' s — Author's Sabbath-school 
— Secresy necessary — Affectionate relations of tutor and pupils — Con- 
fidence and friendship among slaves — Slavery the inviter of vengeance. 164 


New Tear's thoughts and meditations — Again hired by Freeland — 
Kindness no compensation for slavery — Incipient steps toward escape 
— Considerations leading thereto — Hostility to slavery — Solemn vow 
taken — Plan divulged to slaves — Columbian Orator again — Scheme 
gains favor — Danger of discovery — Skill of slaveholders — Suspicion 
and coercion — Hymns with double meaning — Consultation — Pass- 

. word — Hope and fear — Ignorance of Geography — Imaginary difficul- 
ties — Patrick Henry — Sandy a dreamer — Route to the north mapped 
out — Objections — Frauds — Passes — Anxieties — Fear of failure — 
Strange presentiment — Coincidence — Betrayal — Arrests — Resistance — 
Mrs. Freeland — Prison — Brutal jests — Passes eaten — Denial — Sandy 
— Dragged behind horses — Slave traders — Alone in prison — Sent to 
Baltimore 174 


Nothing lost in my attempt to run away — Comrades at home — Reasons 
for sending me away — Return to Baltimore — Tommy changed — Caulk- 
ing in Gardiner's ship yard — Desperate fight — Its causes — Conflict 
between white and black labor — Outrage — Testimony — Master Hugh 
— Slavery in Baltimore— My condition improves — New associations — 
Slaveholder's right to the slave's wages — How to make a discontented 
•lav* 200 



Closing incidents in my " life as a Slave " — Discontent — Suspicions — 
Master's generosity — Difficulties in the way of escape— Plan to obtain 
money — Allowed to hire my time — A gleam of hope — Attend camp- 
meeting — Anger of Master Hugh — The result — Plans of escape — Day 
for departure fixed — Harassing doubts and fears — Painful thoughts of 
separation from friends 212 




Reasons for not having revealed the manner of escape — Nothing of 
romance in the method — Danger — Free Papers — Unjust tax — Protec- 
tion papers — "Free trade and sailors' rights" — American eagle — Rail- 
road train — Unobserving conductor — Capt. McGowan — Honest Ger- 
man—Fears—Safe arrival in Philadelphia — Ditto in New York. 220 



Loneliness and insecurity — "Allender's Jake" — Succored by a sailor- 
David Ruggles — Marriage — Steamer J. W. Richmond — Stage to New 
Bedford — Arrival there — Driver's detention of baggage — Nathan 
Johnson — Change of Name — Why called "Douglass" — Obtaining 
Work— The Liberator and its Editor 228 


Anti-Slavery Convention at Nantucket — First Speech — Much Sensation 
— Extraordinary Speech of Mr. Garrison — Anti-Slavery Agency — 
Youthful Enthusiasm — Fugitive Slaveship Doubted — Experience in 
Slavery Written — Danger of Recapture JI44 



Work in Rhode Island— Dorr War — Recollections of old friends— 
Fwthff kUn in BUdt Island and dsewtert in Ntw Sngbad 950 


Anti-Slavery Convention! hold in parti of New England, and Is seme 
of the Middle and Western States — Mobs — Incidents, etc 257 


Danger to be averted — A refuge sought abroad — Voyage on the steam- 
ship Cambria — Refusal of first-class passage — Attractions of the fore- 
castle-deck — Hutchinson family — Invited to make a speech — South- 
erners feel insulted — Captain threatens to put them in irons — 
Experiences abroad — Attentions received — Impressions of different 
members of Parliament, and of other public men — Contrast with life 
in America. — Kindness of friends — Their purchase of my person, and 
the gift of the same to myself — My return 266 


New Experiences — Painful Disagreement of Opinion with old Friends 
— Final Decision to Publish my Paper in Rochester — Its Fortunes 
and its Friends — Change in my own Views Regarding the Consti- 
tution of the United States — Fidelity to Conviction — Loss of Old 
Friends — Support of New Ones — Loss of House, etc, by Fire — 
Triumphs and Trials — Under-ground Railroad — Incidents 294 


My First Meeting with Capt John Brown — The Free Soil Movement — 
Colored Convention — Uncle Tom's Cabin — Industrial School for 
Colored People— Letter to Mrs. H. B. Stowe 309 


Increased demands of slavery — War in Kansas— John Brown's raid— 
His capture and execution — My escape to England from United 
States marshals ....329 



My eenneetkra with John Brown — To and from England — Pr«ffl«BtM 
•oaUet— miction of Abraham Lincoln .350 




Recruiting of the 54th and 55th Colored Regiments— Visit to President 
Lincoln and Secretary Stanton — Promised a Commission as Adjutant 
General to General Thomas— Disappointment 873 


Proclamation of emancipation — Its reception in Boston — Objections 
brought against it — Its effect on the country — Interview with President 
Lincoln — New York riots — Re-election of Mr. Lincoln — His inaugura- 
tion, and inaugural — Vice-President Johnson — Presidential reception 
— The fall of Richmond — Hall — The assassination— Condolence. 390 


Satisfaction and anxiety, new fields of lab»r opening — Lyceums and 
colleges soliciting addresses — Literary attractions — Pecuniary gain 
— Still pleading for human rights — President Andy Johnson — Colored 
delegation — Their reply to, him — National Loyalist Convention, 1866, 
and its procession — Not Wanted — Meeting with an old friend — Joy 
and surprise — The old master's welcome, and Miss Amanda's friend- 
ship — Enfranchisement debated and accomplished — The Negro a 
citizen 414 



Inducements to a political career — Objections — A newspaper enterprise 
— The New National Era — Its abandonment — The Freedman's Saving 
and Trust Company — Sad experience — Vindication 442 



The Santo Domingo controversy— Decoration day at Arlington, 1871— 
Speech delivered there— National colored convention at New Orleans, 
1872— Elector at large for the State of New York— Death of Hon, 
Henry Wilson. 451 


Return to the " old master" — A last interview — Capt. Auld's admission 
"had I been in your place, I should have done as you did " — Speech 
at Easton— The old jail there— Invited to a sail on the revenue cutter 

CONTENT*. 1 3 

Gathrie — Hon. John L. Thomas — Visit to the old plantation— Home 
of Col. Lloyd — Kind reception and attentions — Familiar scenes — Old 
memories — Burial-ground — Hospitality — Gracious reception from Mrs. 
Buchanan — A little girl's floral gift — A promise of a "good time 
coming" — Speech at Harper's Ferry, Decoration day, 1881 — Storer 
College— Hon. A. J. Hunter 487 


Hon. Gerrit Smith and Mr. E. C. Delevan — Experiences at Hotels and 
on Steamboats and other modes of travel — Hon. Edward Marshall — 
Grace Greenwood — Hon. Moses Norris — Rob't J. Ingersoll — Reflec- 
tions and conclusions— Compensations. 503 


Grateful recognition — Friends in need — Lucretia Mott — Lydia Maria 
Child — Sarah and Angelina Grimke — Abby Kelly — H. Beecher Stowe 
— Other Friends — Woman Suffrage.. . . ,., , ». . •"..«.". ; 517 



Meeting of colored citizens in Washington to express their sympathy 
at the great national bereavement, the death of President Garfield — 
Concluding reflections and convictions 527 


Oration at the unveiling of the Freedmen's monument, at Lincoln Park, 
Washington, D. O, April 14, 1876 — Extract from a speech delivered 
atElmira, N. Y., August 1, 1880 533 

1. Portrait of the Author or Steel, 

2. The last time he saw his Mother, 
8. "Whipping op old Barney, 

4. Gore shooting Deney, . . 

5. Mrs. Auld teaching him to read, 

6. Found in the woods ry Sandy, 

7. Driven to jail for running away, 

8. His present home in "Washington, 

9. At the wharf in Newport, . 

10. Fighting the mob in Indiana, . 

11. Portrait of John Brown, . 

12. Portrait of "Wm. Lloyd Garrisor, 

13. Portrait of "Wendell Phillips, 

14. Portrait of Charles Sumner,. 

15. Commissioners to Santo Domingo, 

16. Marshal at President Garfield's Inauguratiow, 

17. Revisits his old home, .... 

18. Portrait of Abraham Lcroout or 

. 36 
. 66 

. 74 
. 89 
. 153 
. 191 
. 221 
. 233 
. 263 
. 308 
. 869 
. 422 
. 453 
. 459 
. 475 
. 497 
. 647 


JUST what this country has iiTstore to benefit or to startle 
the world in the future, no tongue can tell. We know 
full well the wonderful things which have occurred or have 
been accomplished here in the past, but the still more wonder- 
ful things which we may well say will happen in the centuries 
of development which lie before us, is vain conjecture, it lies 
in the domain of speculation. 

America will be the field for the demonstration of truths 
not now accepted and the establishment of a new and higher 
civilization. Horace Walpole's prophecy will be verified when 
there shall be a Xenophon at New York and a Thucydides at 
Boston. Up to this time the most remarkable contribution 
this country has given to the world is the Author and subject 
of this book, now being introduced to the public — Frederick 
Douglass. The contribution comes naturally and legitimately 
and to some not unexpectedly, nevertheless it is altogether 
unique and must be regarded as truly remarkable. Our Pan- 
theon contains many that are illustrious and worthy, but 
Douglass is unlike all others, he is sui generis. For every 
other great character we can bring forward, Europe can pro- 
duce another equally as great; when we bring forward Doug- 
lass, he cannot be matched. 

Douglass was born a slave, he won his liberty; he is of 
negro extraction, and consequently was despised and outraged ; 
he has by his own energy and force of character commanded 
the respect of the Nation ; he was ignorant, he has, against 
law and by stealth and entirely unaided, educated himself; he 
was poor, he has by honest toil and industry become rich and 
independent, so to speak ; he, a chattel slave of a hated and 


emelly wronged race, in the teeth of American prejudice and 
in face of nearly every kind of hindrance and draw-back, has 
come to be one of the foremost orators of the age, with a 
reputation established on both sides of the Atlantic; a writer 
of power and elegance of expression; a thinker whose views 
are potent in controlling and shaping public opinion ; a high 
officer in the National Government; a cultivated gentleman 
whose virtues as a husband, father, and citizen are the highest 
honor a man can have. 

Frederick Douglass stands upon a pedestal ; he has reached 
this lofty height through years of toil and strife, but it has 
been the strife of moral ideas ; strife in the battle for human 
rights. No bitter memories come from this strife ; no feelings 
of remorse can rise to cast their gloomy shadows over his 
soul ; Douglass has now reached and passed the meridian of 
life, his co-laborers in the strife have now nearly all passed 
away. Garrison has gone, Gerritt Smith has gone, Giddings 
and Sumner have gone, — nearly all the early abolitionists are 
gone to their reward. The culmination of his life work has 
been reached ; the object dear to his heart — the Emancipation 
of the slaves — has been accomplished, through the blessings of 
God; he stands facing the goal, already reached by his co- 
laborers, with a halo of peace about him, and nothing but 
serenity and gratitude must fill his breast. To those, who in 
the past — in ante-bellum days— in any degree shared with 
Douglass his hopes and feelings on the slavery question, this 
serenity of mind, this gratitude, can be understood and felt. 
All Americans, no matter what may- have been their views on 
slavery, now that freedom has come and slavery is ended, 
must have a restful feeling and be glad that the source of 
bitterness and trouble is removed. The man who is sorry 
because of the abolition of slavery, has outlived his day and 
generation ; he should have insisted upon being buried with 
the "lost cause" at Appomattox. 

We rejoice that Douglass has attained unto this exalted 
position — this pedestal. It has been honorably reached ; it is 


a just recognition of talent and effort; it is another proof that 
success attends high and noble aim. With this example, the 
black boy as well as the white boy can take hope and courage 
in the race of life. 

Douglass' life has been a romance—and a fragrance — to the 
age. There has been just enough mystery about his origin 
and escape from slavery to throw a charm about them. The 
odd proceedings in the purchase of his freedom after his 
escape from slavery ; his movements in connection with the 
John Brown raid at Harper's Ferry and his subsequent flight 
across the ocean are romantic as anything which took place 
among the crags and cliffs, the Roderick Dhus and Douglasses 
of the Lady of the Lake ; while the pure life he has led and 
his spotless character are sweet by contrast with the lives of 
mere politicians and time serving statesmen. It is well to 
contemplate one like him, who has had " hair breadth escapes." 
It is inspiring to know that the day of self-sacrifice and self- 
development are not passed. 

To say that his life has been eventful, is hardly the word. 
From the time when he first saw the light on the Tuckahoe 
plantation up to the time he was called to fill a high official 
position, his life has been crowded with events which in some 
sense may be called miracles, and now since his autobiography 
has come to be written, we must understand the hour of 
retrospect has come — for casting up and balancing accounts 
as to work done or left undone. 

It is more than forty years now that he has been before the 
world as a writer and speaker — busy, active, wonderful 
years to him — and we are called upon to pass judgment upon 
his labors. What can we say ? Can he claim the well done 
good and faithful ? The record shows this, and we must state 
it, generally speaking, his life has been devoted to his race 
and the cause of his race. The freedom and elevation of his 
people has been his life work, and it has been done well and 
faithfully. That is the record, and that is sufficient No 


higher eulogfam can be pronounced than that Longfellow sayi 

of the Village Blacksmith : — 

" Something attempted, something dene, 
Has earned a night's repose." 

Douglass found his people enslaved and oppressed. He has 
given the best years of his life to the improvement of their 
condition, and, now that he looks back upon his labors, may 
he not say he has " attempted " and "done" something? and 
may he not claim the "repose" which ought to come in the 
evening of a well spent life ? 

The first twenty-three years of Douglass' life were twenty- 
three years of slavery, obscurity, and degradation, yet doubt- 
less in time to come these years will be regarded by the 
student of history the most interesting portion of his life ; to 
those who in the future would know the inside history of 
American slavery, this part of his life will be specially in- 
structive. Plantation life at Tuckahoe as related by him is 
not fiction, it is fact ; it is not the historian's dissertation on 
slavery, it is slavery itself, the slave's life, acts, and thoughts, 
and the life, acts, and thoughts of those around him. It is 
Macauley (I think) who says that a copy of a daily newspaper 
[if there were such] published at Rome would give more in- 
formation and be of more value than any history we have. 
So, too, this photographic view of slave life as given to us in 
the autobiography of an ex-slave will give to the reader a 
clearer insight of the system of slavery than can be gained 
from the examination of general history. 

Col. Lloyd's plantation, where Douglass belonged, was very 
much like other plantations of the south. Here was the great 
house and the cabins, the old Aunties and patriarchal Uncles, 
little picanninies and picanninies not so little, of every shade 
of complexion, from ebony black to whiteness of the master 
race ; mules, overseers, and broken down , fences. Here was 
the negro Doctor learned in the science of roots and herbs ; 
also the black conjurer with his divination. Here was slave- 
breeding and alave-eelling, whipping, torturing, and beating to 

IWTE0DU0TI01I. 19 

death. All this came under the observation of Douglass and 
is a part of the education he received while under the yoke of 
bondage. He was there in the midst of this confusion, ignor- 
ance, and brutality. Little did the overseer on this plantation 
think that he had in his gang a man of superior order and 
undaunted spirit, whose mind, far above the Bainds of the 
grovelling creatures about him, was at that very time plotting 
schemes for his liberty ; nor did the thought ever enter the 
mind of Col. Lloyd, the rich slaveholder, that he had upon his 
estate one who was destined to assail the system of slavery 
with more power and effect than any other person. 

Douglass' fame will rest mainly, no doubt, upon his oratory. 
His powers in this direction are very great and in some re- 
spects unparalleled by our living speakers. His oratory is his 
own and apparently formed after the model of no single per- 
son. It is not after the Edmund Burke style, which has been 
so closely followed by Everett, Sumner, and others, and which 
has resulted in giving us splendid and highly embellished 
essays rather than natural and not overwrought speeches. If 
his oratory must be classified, it should be placed somewhere 
between the Fox and Henry Clay schools. Like Clay, Doug- 
lass' greatest effect is upon his immediate hearers, those who 
see him and feel his presence, and like Clay a good part of his 
oratorical fame will be tradition. The most striking feature 
of Douglass' oratory is his fire, not the quick and flashy kind, 
but the steady and intense kind. Years ago on the anti-slav- 
ery platform, in some sudden and unbidden outburst of passion 
and indignation he has been known to awe-inspire his listen- 
ers as though ^Etna were there. 

If oratory consists of the power to move men by spoken 
words, Douglass is a complete orator. He can make men 
laugh or cry, at his will. He has power of statement, logic, 
withering denunciation, pathos, humor, and inimitable wit. 
Daniel Webster with his immense intellectuality had no 
humor, not a particle. It does not appear that he could even 
see the point of a joke. Douglass is brim full of humor at 


times, of the dryest kind. It is of a quiet kind. You can see 
it coining a long way off in a peculiar twitch of his mouth ; it 
increases and broadens gradually until it becomes irresistible 
and all-pervading with his audience. 

Douglass' rank as a writer is high, and justly so. His writ- 
ings, if anything, are more meritorious than his speaking. 
For many years he was the editor of newspapers, doing all of 
the editorial work. He has contributed largely to magazines. 
He is a forcible and thoughtful writer. His style is pure and 
graceful, and he has great felicity of expression. His written 
productions in finish compare favorably with the written pro- 
ductions of our most cultivated writers. His style comes 
partly, no doubt, from his long and constant practice, but the 
true source is his clear mind, which is well stored by a close 
acquaintance with the best authors. His range of reading has 
been wide and extensive. He has been a hard student. In 
every sense of the word he is a self-made man. By dint 
of hard study he has educated himself, and to-day it may be 
said he has a well-trained intellect. He has surmounted the 
disadvantage of not having an university education, by appli- 
cation and well-directed effort. He seems to have realized 
the fact that to one who is anxious to become educated and is 
really in earnest, it is not positively necessary to go to college, 
and that information may be had outside of college walks ; 
books may be obtained and read elsewhere, they are not 
chained to desks in college libraries as they were in early 
times at Oxford ; Professors' lectures may be bought already 
printed ; learned doctors may be listened to in the Lyceum ; 
and the printing press has made it easy and cheap to get in- 
formation on every subject and topic that is discussed and 
taught in the University. Douglass never made the great 
mistake (a common one) of considering that his education 
was finished. He has continued to study, he studies now, and 
is a growing man, and at this present moment he is a stronger 
man intellectually than ever before. 

Soon after Douglass' escape from Maryland to the Northern 


States, he commenced his public career. It was at New Bed- 
ford as a local Methodist preacher and by taking part in small 
public meetings held by colored people, wherein anti-slavery 
and other matters were discussed. There he laid the founda- 
tion of the splendid career which is now about drawing to a 
close. In these meetings Douglass gave evidence that he pos- 
sessed uncommon powers, and it was plainly to be seen that 
he needed only a field and opportunity to display them. That 
field and opportunity soon came, as it always does to possess- 
ors of genius. He became a member and agent of the Amer- 
ican Anti-Slavery society. Then commenced his great crusade 
against slavery in behalf of his oppressed brethren at the 

He waged violent and unceasing war against slavery. He 
went through every town and hamlet in the Free States, rais- 
ing his voice against the iniquitous system. 

Just escaped from the prison-house himself, to tear down 
the walls of the same and to let the oppressed go free, was the 
mission which engaged the powers of his soul and body. 
North, East, and West, all through the land went this escaped 
slave delivering his warning message against the doomed 
cities of the South. The ocean did not stop nor hinder him. 
Across the Atlantic he went, through England, Ireland, and 
Scotland. Wherever people could be found to listen to his 
story, he pleaded the cause of his enslaved and down-trodden 
brethren with vehemence and great power. From 1840 to 
1861, the time of the commencement of the civil war, which 
extirpated slavery in this country, Douglass was continuously 
speaking on the platform, writing for his newspaper and for 
magazines, or working in conventions for the abolition of 

The life and work of Douglass has been a complete vindica- 
tion of the colored people in this respect ; it has refuted and 
overthrown the position taken by some writers that colored 
people were deficient in mental qualifications and were inca- 
pable of attaining high intellectual position- We may reason- 

22 imnoDucttoft. 

ablj expect to hear no more of this now, the argument is 
exploded. Douglass has settled the fact the right way, and it 
is something to settle a fact. 

That Douglass is a brave man there can be little doubt. 
He has physical as well as moral courage. His encounter with 
the overseer of the eastern shore plantation attests his pluck. 
There the odds were against him, everything was against him 
— there the unwritten rule of law was, that the negro who 
dared to strike a white man, must be killed, but Douglass 
fought the overseer and whipped him. His plotting with 
other slaves to escape, writing and giving them passes, and 
the unequal and desperate fight maintained by him in the 
Baltimore ship yard, where law and public sentiment were 
against him, also show that he has courage. But since the 
day of his slavery, while living here at the North, many in- 
stances have happened which show very plainly that he is a 
man of courage and determination; if he had not been, he 
would have long since succumbed to the brutality and violence 
of the low and mean spirited people found in the Free States. 

Up to a very recent date it has been deemed quite safe even 
here in the North to insult and impose on inoffensive colored 
people, to elbow a colored man from the sidewalk, to jeer at 
him and apply vile epithets to him, in some localities this has 
been the rule and not the exception, and to put him out of 
public conveyances and public places by force, was of common 
occurrence. It made little difference that the colored man 
was decent, civil, and respectably clad, and had paid his fare, 
if the proprietor of the place or his patrons took the notion 
that the presence of the colored man was an affront to their 
dignity or inconsistent with their notions of self-respect, out 
he must go. Nor must he stand upon the order of his going, 
but go at once. It was against this feeling that Douglass had 
to contend. He met it often; he was a prominent colored 
man traveling from place to place. A good part of the time 
ha was in strange cities stopping at strange taverns — that is, 
wham h# was allowed to stop. Tim* and again has ht bean 


refused accommodation in hotels. Time and again has he 
been in a strange place with nowhere to lay his head until 
some kind anti-slavery person would come forward and give 
him shelter. 

The writer of this remembers well, because he was present 
and saw the transaction, — the John Brown meeting in Tre- 
mont Temple in 1860, when a violent mob composed of the 
rough element from the slums of the city, led and encouraged 
by bankers and brokers, came into the hall to break up the 
meeting. Douglass was presiding; the mob was armed; the 
police were powerless ; the mayor could not or would not do 
anything. On came the mob surging through the aisles over 
benches and upon the platform ; the women in the audience 
became alarmed and fled. The hirelings were prepared to do 
anything, they had the power and could with impunity. 
Douglass sat upon the platform with a few chosen spirits, cool 
and undaunted ; the mob had got about and around him ; lie 
did not heed their howling nor was he moved by their threats. 
It was not until their leader, a rich banker, with his followers, 
had mounted the platform and wrenched the chair from under 
him that he was dispossessed, by main force and personal 
violence (Douglass resisting all the time) they removed him 
from the platform. 

It affords me great pleasure to introduce to the public this 
book, " The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass." I am 
glad of the opportunity to present a work which tells the story 
of the rise and progress of our most celebrated colored man. 
To the names of Toussaint L'Overture and Alexander Dumas 
is to be added that of Frederick Douglass. We point with 
pride to this trio of illustrious names. I bid my fellow coun- 
try men take new hope and courage; the near future will 
bring us other men of worth and genius, and our list of illus- 
trious names will become lengthened. Until that time the 
duty is to work and wait. 






Author's place of birth — Description of country — Its inhabitants — Genea- 
logical trees — Method of counting time in slave districts — Date of author's 
birth — Names of grandparents — Their cabin — Home with them — Slave 
practice of separating mothers from their children — Author's recollections 
of his mother — Who was his father ? 

IN Talbot County, Eastern Shore, State of Maryland, near 
Easton, the county town, there is a small district of 
country, thinly populated, and remarkable for nothing that I 
know of more than for the worn-out, sandy, desert-like ap- 
pearance of its soil, the general dilapidation of its farms and 
fences, the indigent and spiritless character of its inhabitants, 
and the prevalence of ague and fever. It was in this dull, 
flat, and unthrifty district or neighborhood, bordered by the 
Choptank river, among the laziest and muddiest of streams 
surrounded by a white population of the lowest order, indo- 
lent and drunken to a proverb, and among slaves who, in 
point of ignorance and indolence, were fully in accord with 
their surroundings, that I, without any fault of my own, was 
born, and spent the first years of my childhood. 

The reader must not expect me to say much of my family. 
Genealogical trees did not flourish among slaves. A person 
of some consequence in civilized society, sometimes designated 
as father, was literally unknown to slave law and slave prac- 
tice. I never met with a slave in that part of the country 
who could tell me with any certainty how old he was. Few 
at that time knew anything of the months of the year or of 



the days of the month. They measured the ages of their 
children by spring-time, winter-time, harvest-time, planting- 
time, and the like. Masters allowed no questions to be put 
to them by slaves concerning their ages. Such questions 
were regarded by the masters as evidence of an impudent 
curiosity. From certain events, however, the dates of which 
I have since learned, I suppose myself to have been born in 
February, 1817. 

My first experience of life, as I now remember it, and I 
remember it but hazily, began in the family of my grand- 
mother and grandfather, Betsey and Isaac Bailey. They were 
considered old settlers in the neighborhood, and from certain 
circumstances I infer that my grandmother, especially, was 
held in high esteem, far higher than was the lot of most col- 
ored persons in that region. She was a good nurse, and a 
capital hand at making nets used for catching shad and her- 
ring, and was, withal, somewhat famous as a fisherwoman. 
I have known her to be in the water waist deep, for hours, 
seine-hauling. She was a gardener as well as a fisherwoman, 
and remarkable for her success in keeping her seedling sweet 
potatoes through the months of winter, and easily got the 
reputation of being born to " good luck." In planting time 
Grandmother Betsey was sent for in all directions, simply to 
place the seedling potatoes in the hills or drills ; for supersti- 
tion had it that her touch was needed to make them grow. 
This reputation was full of advantage to her and her grand- 
children, for a good crop, after her planting for the neighbors, 
brought her a share of the harvest. 

Whether because she was too old for field service, or because 
she had so faithfully discharged the duties of her station in 
early life, I know not, but she enjoyed the high privilege of 
living in a cabin separate from the quarters, having only the 
charge of the young children and the burden of her own sup- 
port imposed upon her. She esteemed it great good fortune 
to live so, and took much comfort in having the children. 
The practice of separating mothers from their children and 


hiring them out at distances too great to admit of their meet- 
ing, save at long intervals, was a marked feature of the cru- 
elty and barbarity of the slave system ; but it was in harmony 
with the grand aim of that system, which always and every- 
where sought to reduce man to a level with the brute. It 
had no interest in recognizing or preserving any of the ties 
that bind families together or to their homes. 

My grandmother's five daughters were hired out in this 
way, and my only recollections of my own mother are of a 
few hasty visits made in the night on foot, after the daily 
tasks were over, and when she was under the necessity of 
returning in time to respond to the driver's call to the field 
in the early morning. These little glimpses of my mother, 
obtained under such circumstances and against such odds, 
meager as they were, are ineffaceably stamped upon my mem- 
ory. She was tall and finely proportioned, of dark glossy 
complexion, with regular features, and amongst the slaves 
was remarkably sedate and dignified. There is, in " Prichard's 
Natural History of Man," the head of a figure, on page 157, 
the features of which so resemble my mother that I often 
recur to it with something of the feelings which I suppose 
others experience when looking upon the likenesses of their 
own dear departed ones. 

Of my father I know nothing. Slavery had no recognition 
of fathers, as none of families. That the mother was a slave 
was enough for its deadly purpose. By its law the child fol- 
lowed the condition of its mother. The father might be a 
freeman and the child a slave. The father might be a white 
man, glorying in the purity of his Anglo-Saxon blood, and 
his child ranked with the blackest slaves. Father he might 
be, and not be husband, and could sell his own child without 
incurring reproach, if in its veins coursed one drop of African 



Author's early home — Its charms — Author's ignorance of "old master *— 
His gradual perception of the truth concerning him — His relations to CoL 
Edward Lloyd — Author's removal to "old master's" home — His journey 
thence — His separation from his grandmother — His grief. 

Living thus with my grandmother, whose kindness and love 
stood in place of my mother's, it was some time before I 
knew myself to be a slave. I knew many other things before 
I knew that. Her little cabin had to me the attractions of a 
palace. Its fence-railed floor — which was equally floor and 
bedstead — up stairs, and its clay floor down stairs, its dirt and 
straw chimney, and windowless sides, and that most curious 
piece of workmanship, the ladder stairway, and the hole so 
strangely dug in front of the fire-place, beneath which grand- 
mamma placed her sweet potatoes, to keep them from frost 
in winter, were full of interest to my childish observation. 
The squirrels, as they skipped the fences, climbed the trees, 
or gathered their nuts, were an unceasing delight to me. 
There, too, right at the side of the hut, stood the old well, 
with its stately and skyward-pointing beam, so aptly placed 
between the limbs of what had once been a tree, and so nicely 
balanced, that I could move it up and down with only one 
hand, and could get a drink myself without calling for help. 
Nor were these all the attractions of the place. At a little 
distance stood Mr. Lee's mill, where the people came in large 
numbers to get their corn ground. I can never tell the many 
things thought and felt, as I sat on the bank and watched that 
mill, and the turning of its ponderous wheel. The mill-pond, 
too, had its charms ; and with my pin-hook and thread line I 
could get amusing nibbles if I could catch no fish. 



It was not long, however, before I began to learn the sad 
fact that this house of my childhood belonged not to my dear 
old grandmother, but to some one I had never seen, and who 
lived a great distance off. I learned, too, the sadder fact, that 
not only the home and lot, but that grandmother herself and 
all the little children around her belonged to a mysterious 
personage, called by grandmother, with every mark of rev<^ 
ence, " Old Master." Thus early did clouds and shadows 
begin to fall upon my path. 

I learned that this old master, whose name seemed ever to 
be mentioned with fear and shuddering, only allowed the little 
children to live with grandmother for a limited time, and that as 
soon as they were big enough they were promptly taken away to 
live with the said old master. These were distressing revelation? 
indeed. My grandmother was all the world to me, and the 
thought of being separated from her was a most unwelcome 
suggestion to my affections and hopes. This mysterious old 
master was really a man of some consequence. He owned 
several farms in Tuckahoe, was the chief clerk and butler on 
the home plantation of Colonel Lloyd, had overseers as well as 
slaves on his own farms, and gave directions to the overseers 
on the farms owned by Colonel Lloyd. Captain Aaron 
Anthony, for such is the name and title of my old master, 
lived on Colonel Lloyd's plantation, which was situated on the 
Wye river, and which was one of the largest, most fertile, and 
best appointed in the State. 

About this plantation and this old master I was most eager 
to know everything which could be known ; and, unhappily foi 
me, all the information I could get concerning him increased 
jnj dread of being separated from my grandmother and 
grandfather. I wished it was possible I could remain small al) 
my life, knowing that the sooner I grew large the shortei 
would be my time to remain with them. Everything about 
the cabin became doubly dear, and I was sure there could be 
no other spot equal to it on earth. But the time came whei 
I must go, and my grandmother, knowing my fears, in pity 


for them, kindly kept me ignorant of the dreaded moment up 
to the morning (a beautiful summer morning) when we were 
to start, and, indeed, during the whole journey, which, child 
as I was, I remember as well as if it were yesterday, she kept 
the unwelcome truth hidden from me. The distance from 
Tuckahoe to Colonel Lloyd's, where my old master lived, was 
full twelve miles, and the walk was' quite a severe test of the 
endurance of my young legs. The journey would have proved 
too severe for me, but that my dear old grandmother (bless- 
ings on her memory) afforded occasional relief by "toieing" 
me on her shoulder. Advanced in years as she was, as was 
evident from the more than one gray hair which peeped from 
between the ample and graceful folds of her newly and 
smoothly ironed bandana turban, grandmother was yet a 
woman of power and spirit. She was remarkably straight in 
figure, elastic and muscular in movement. I seemed hardly to 
be a burden to her. She would have " toted " me farther, but 
I felt myself too much of a man to allow it. Yet while I 
walked I was not independent of her. She often found me 
holding her skirts lest something should come out of the 
woods and eat me up. Several old logs and stumps imposed 
upon me, and got themselves taken for enormous animals. I 
could plainly see their legs, eyes, ears, and teeth, till I got close 
enough to see that the eyes were knots, washed white with 
rain, and the legs were broken limbs, and the ears and teeth 
only such because of the point from which they were seen. 

As the day advanced the heat increased, and it was not until 
the afternoon that we reached the much dreaded end of the 
journey. Here I found myself in the midst of a group of 
children of all sizes and of many colors, black, brown, copper 
colored, and nearly white. I had not seen so many children 
before. As a new comer I was an object of special interest. 
After laughing and yelling around me and playing all sorts of 
wild tricks they asked me to go out and play with them. 
This I refused to do. Grandmamma looked sad, and I could 
not help feeling that our being there boded no good to me. 


She was soon to lose another object of affection, as she had 
lost many before. Affectionately patting me on the head she 
told me to be a good boy and go out to play with the children. 
They are " kin to you," she said, " go and play with them." 
She pointed out to me my brother Perry, my sisters, Sarah and 
Eliza. I had never seen them before, and though I had some- 
times heard of them and felt a curious interest in them, I 
really did not understand what they were to me or I to them. 
Brothers and sisters we were by blood, but slavery had made 
us strangers. They were already initiated into the mysteries 
of old master's domicile, and they seemed to look upon me 
with a certain degree of compassion. I really wanted to play 
with them, but they were strangers to me, and I was full of 
fear that my grandmother might leave for home without taking 
me with her. Entreated to do so, however, and that, too, by 
my dear grandmother, I went to the back part of the house to 
play with them and the other children. Play, however, I did 
not, but stood with my back against the wall witnessing the 
playing of the others. At last, while standing there, one of 
the children, who had been in the kitchen, ran up to me in a 
sort of roguish glee, exclaiming, "Fed, Fed, grandmamma 
gone ! " I could not believe it. Yet, fearing the worst, I ran 
into the kitchen to see for myself, and lo ! she was indeed 
gone, and was now far away and " clean " out of sight. I 
need not tell all that happened now. Almost heart-broken at 
the discovery, I fell upon the ground and wept a boy's bitter 
tears, refusing to be comforted. My brother gave me peaches 
and pears to quiet me, but I promptly threw them on the 
ground. I had never been deceived before, and something of 
resentment at this, mingled with my grief at parting with my 

It was now late in the afternoon. The day had been an 
exciting and wearisome one, and, I know not where, but I 
suppose I sobbed myself to sleep, and its balm was never more 
welcome to any wounded soul than to mine. The reader may 
be surprised that I relate so minutely an incident apparently 


so trivial and which must have occurred when I was less than 
seven years old, but as I wish to give a faithful history of my 
experience in slavery, I cannot withhold a circumstance which 
at the time affected me so deeply, and which I still remember 
so vividly. Besides, this was my first introduction to the 
realities of the slave system. 



Col. Lloyd's plantation — Aunt Katy — Her cruelty and ill-nature — Capt. 
Anthony's partiality to Aunt Katy — Allowance of food — Author's hunger 
— Unexpected rescue by his mother — The reproof of Aunt Katy — Sleep 
—A slave-mother's love — Author's inheritance — His mother's acquirements 
— Her death. 

ONCE established on the home plantation of Col. Lloyd — 
I was with the children there, left to the tender mercies 
of Aunt Katy, a slave woman who was to my master what he 
was to Col. Lloyd. Disposing of us in classes or sizes, he 
left to Aunt Katy all the minor details concerning our man- 
agement. She was a woman who never allowed herself to act 
greatly within the limits of delegated power, no matter how 
broad that authority might be. Ambitious of old master's 
favor, ill-tempered and cruel by nature, she found in her pres- 
ent position an ample field for the exercise of her ill-omened 
qualities. She had a strong hold upon old master, for she was 
a first-rate cook, and very industrious. She was therefore 
greatly favored by him — and as one mark of his favor she was 
the only mother who was permitted to retain her children 
around her, and even to these, her own children, she was often 
fiendish in her brutality. Cruel, however, as she sometimes 
was to her own children, she was not destitute of maternal 
feeling, and in her instinct to satisfy their demands for food, 
she was often guilty of starving me and the other children. 
Want of food was my chief trouble during my first summer 
here. Captain Anthony, instead of allowing a given quantity 
of food to each slave, committed the allowance for all to Aunt 
Katy, to be divided by her, after cooking, amongst us. The 
allowance consisted of coarse corn meal, not very abundant, 


and which by passing through Aunt Katy's hands, became 
more slender still for some of us. I have often been so 
pinched with hunger, as to dispute with old " Nep," the dog, 
for the crumbs which fell from the kitchen table. Many times 
have I followed with eager step, the waiting-girl when she 
shook the table-cloth, to get the crumbs and small bones flung 
out for the dogs and cats. It was a great thing to have the 
privilege of dipping a piece of bread into the water in which 
meat had been boiled — and the skin taken from the rusty 
bacon was a positive luxury. With this description of the 
domestic arrangements of my new home, I may here recount 
a circumstance which is deeply impressed on my memory, as 
affording a bright gleam of a slave-mother's love, and the 
earnestness of a mother's care. I had offended Aunt Katy. 
I do not remember in what way, for my offences were numer- 
ous in that quarter, greatly depending upon her moods as to 
their heinousness, and she had adopted her usual mode of 
punishing me : namely, making me go all day without food. 
For the first hour or two after dinner time, I succeeded pretty 
well in keeping up my spirits ; but as the day wore away, I 
found it quite impossible to do so any longer. Sundown came, 
but no bread ; and in its stead came the threat from Aunt 
Katy, with a scowl well suited to its terrible import, that she 
would starve the life out of me. Brandishing her knife, she 
chopped off the heavy slices of bread for the other children, 
and put the loaf away, muttering all the while her savage de- 
signs upon myself. Against this disappointment, for I was 
expecting that her heart would relent at last, I made an extra 
effort to maintain my dignity, but when I saw the other chil- 
dren around me with satisfied faces, I could stand it no longer. 
I went out behind the kitchen wall and cried like a fine fellow. 
When wearied with this, I returned to the kitchen, sat by the 
fire and brooded over my hard lot. I was too hungry to sleep. 
While I sat in the corner, I caught sight of an ear of Indian 
corn upon an upper shelf. I watched my chance and got it; 
and shelling off a few grains, I put it back again.. These 

The Last Time he saw his Mother. 


grains I quickly put into the hot ashes to roast. I did this at 
the risk of getting a brutal thumping, for Aunt Katy could 
beat as well as starve me. My corn was not long in roasting, 
and I eagerly pulled it from the ashes, and placed it upon a 
stool in a clever little pile. I began to help myself, when who 
but my own dear mother should come in. The scene which 
followed is beyond my power to describe. The friendless and 
hungry boy, in his extremest need, found himself in the strong 
protecting arms of his mother. I have before spoken of my 
mother's dignified and impressive manner. I shall never for- 
get the indescribable expression of her countenance when I 
told her that Aunt Katy had said she would starve the life out 
of me. There was deep and tender pity in her glance at me, 
and a fiery indignation at Aunt Katy at the same moment, 
and while she took the corn from me, and gave in its stead a 
large ginger cake, she read Aunt Katy a lecture which was 
never forgotten. That night I learned as I had never learned 
before, that I was not only a child, but somebody's child. I 
was grander upon my mother's knee than a king upon his 
throne. But my triumph was short. I dropped off to sleep, 
and waked in the morning to find my mother gone and myself 
at the mercy again of the virago in my master's kitchen, 
whose fiery wrath was my constant dread. 

My mother had walked twelve miles to see me, and had the 
same distance to travel over again before the morning sunrise. 
I do not remember ever seeing her again. Her death soon 
ended the little communication that had existed between us, 
and with it, I believe, a life full of weariness and heartfelt 
sorrow. To me it has ever been a grief that I knew my 
mother so little, and have so few of her words treasured in 
my remembrance. I have since learned that she was the only 
one of all the colored people of Tuckahoe who could read. 
How she acquired this knowledge I know not, for Tuckahoe 
was the last place in the world where she would have been 
likely to find facilities for learning. I can therefore fondly 
and proudly ascribe to her, an earnest love of knowledge. 


That a field-hand should learn to read in any slave State is 
remarkable, but the achievements of my mother, considering 
the place and circumstances, was very extraordinary. In view 
of this fact, I am happy to attribute any love of letters I may 
have, not to my presumed Anglo-Saxon paternity, but to the 
native genius of my sable, unprotected, and uncultivated 
mother — a woman who belonged to a race whose mental en- 
dowments are still disparaged and despised. 



Home Plantation of Colonel Lloyd — Its Isolation — Its Industries — The 
Slave Rule — Power of Overseers — Author finds some Enjoyment — Natural 
Scenery— Sloop "Sally Lloyd "—Wind Mill— Slave Quarter— " Old 
Master's" House — Stables, Store Houses, etc., etc. — The Great House — 
Its Surroundings — Lloyd — Burial-Place — Superstition of Slaves — Colonel 
Lloyd's Wealth — Negro Politeness — Doctor Copper — Captain Anthony — 
His Family — Master Daniel Lloyd — His Brothers — Social Etiquette. 

IT was generally supposed that slavery in the State of 
Maryland existed in its mildest form, and that it was 
totally divested of those harsh and terrible peculiarities which 
characterized the slave system in the Southern and South 
Western States of the American Union. The ground of this 
opinion was the contiguity of the free States, and the influence 
of their moral, religious, and humane sentiments. Public 
opinion was, indeed, a measurable restraint upon the cruelty 
and barbarity of masters, overseers, and slave-drivers, when- 
ever and wherever it could reach them ; but there were certain 
secluded and out of the way places, even in the State of Mary- 
land, fifty years ago, seldom visited by a single ray of healthy 
p lblic sentiment, where slavery, wrapt in its own congenial 
darkness, could and did develop all its malign and shocking 
characteristics, where it could be indecent without shame, 
cruel without shuddering, and murderous without apprehen- 
sion or fear of exposure, or punishment. Just such a secluded, 
dark, and out of the way place, was the home plantation of 
Colonel Edward Lloyd, in Talbot county, eastern shore of 
Maryland. It was far away from all the great thoroughfares 
of travel and commerce, and proximate to no town or village. 
There was neither school-house nor town-house in its neigh- 
borhood. The school-house was unnecessary, for there were 



no children to go to school. The children and grand-children 
of Col. Lloyd were taught in the house by a private tutor (a 
Mr. Page from Greenfield, Massachusetts, a tall, gaunt, sap- 
ling of a man, remarkably dignified, thoughtful, and reticent, 
and who did not speak a dozen words to a slave in a whole 
year). The overseer's children went off somewhere in the 
State to school, and therefore could bring no foreign or dan- 
gerous influence from abroad to embarrass the natural opera- 
tion of the slave system of the place. Not even the commonest 
mechanics, from whom there might have been an occasional 
outburst of honest and telling indignation at cruelty and wrong 
on other plantations, were white men here. Its whole public was 
made up of and divided into three classes, slaveholders, slaves, 
and overseers. Its blacksmiths, wheelwrights, shoemakers, 
weavers, and coopers, were slaves. Not even commerce, selfish 
and indifferent to moral considerations as it usually is, was per- 
mitted within its secluded precincts. Whether with a view of 
guarding against the escape of its secrets, I know not, but it is 
a fact, that every leaf and grain of the products of this planta- 
tion and those of the neighboring farms, belonging to Col. 
Lloyd, were transported to Baltimore in his own vessels, every 
man and boy on board of which, except the captain, were 
owned by him as his property. In return, everything brought 
to the plantation came through the same channel. To make 
this isolation more apparent it may be stated that the adjoin- 
ing estates to Col. Lloyd's were owned and occupied by friends 
of his, who were as deeply interested as himself in maintain- 
ing the slave system in all its rigor. These were the Tilgmans, 
the Goldboroughs, the Lockermans, the Pacas, the Skinners, 
Gibsons, and others of lesser affluence and standing. 

The fact is, public opinion in such a quarter, the reader 
must see, was not likely to be very efficient in protecting the 
slave from cruelty. To be a restraint upon abuses of this 
nature, opinion must emanate from humane and virtuous com- 
munities, and to no such opinion or influence was Col. Lloyd's 
plantation exposed. It was a little nation by itself, having its 


own language, its own rules, regulations, and customs. The 
troubles and controversies arising here were not settled by the 
civil power of the State. The overseer was the important 
dignitary. He was generally accuser, judge, jury, advocate, 
and executioner. The criminal was always dumb — and no 
slave was allowed to testify, other than against his brother 

There were, of course, no conflicting rights of property, for 
all the people were the property of one man, and they could 
themselves own no property. Religion and politics were largely 
excluded. One class of the population was too high to be 
reached by the common preacher, and the other class was too 
low in condition and ignorance to be much cared for by religi- 
ous teachers, and yet some religious ideas did enter this dark 

This, however, is not the only view which the place presented. 
Though civilization was in many respects shut out, nature 
could not be. Though separated from the rest of the world, 
though public opinion, as I have said, could seldom penetrate 
its dark domain, though the whole place was stamped with its 
own peculiar iron-like individuality, and though crimes, high- 
handed and atrocious, could be committed there with strange 
and shocking impunity, it was to outward seeming a most 
strikingly interesting place, full of life, activity, and spirit, 
and presented a very favorable contrast to the indolent monot- 
ony and languor of Tuckahoe. It resembled in some respects 
descriptions I have since read of the old baronial domains of 
Europe. Keen as was my regret, and great as was my sorrow, 
at leaving my old home, I was not long in adapting myself to 
this my new one. A man's troubles are always half disposed 
of when he finds endurance the only alternative. I found 
myself here ; there was no getting away ; and naught remained 
for me but to make the best of it. Here were plenty of 
children to play with, and plenty of pleasant resorts for boys 
of my age and older. The little tendrils of affection so rudely 
broken from the darling objects in and around my grand- 


mother's home, gradually began to extend and twine them- 
selves around the new surroundings. Here for the first time 
I saw a large wind-mill, with its wide-sweeping white wings, a 
commanding object to a child's eye. This was situated on 
what was called Long Point — a tract of land dividing Miles 
river from the Wye. I spent many hours here watching the 
wings of this wondrous mill. In the river, or what was called 
the " Swash," at a short distance from the shore, quietly lying 
at anchor, with her small row boat dancing at her stern, was 
a large sloop, the Sally Lloyd, called by that name in honor of 
the favorite daughter of the Colonel. These two objects, the 
sloop and mill, as I remember, awakened thoughts, ideas, and 
wondering. Then here were a great many houses, human 
habitations full of the mysteries of life at every stage of it. 
There was the little red house up the road, occupied by Mr. 
Seveir, the overseer ; a little nearer to my old master's stood 
a long, low, rough building literally alive with slaves of all 
ages, sexes, conditions, sizes, and colors. This was called the 
long quarter. Perched upon a hill east of our house, was a 
tall dilapidated old brick building, the architectural dimensions 
of which proclaimed its creation for a different purpose, now 
occupied by slaves, in a similar manner to the long quarters. 
Besides these, there were numerous other slave houses and 
huts, scattered around in the neighborhood, every nook and 
corner of which, were completely occupied. 

Old master's house, a long brick building, plain but substan- 
tial, was centrally located, and was an independent establish- 
ment. Besides these houses there were barns, stables, store 
houses, tobacco-houses, blacksmith shops, wheelwright shops, 
cooper shops ; but above all there stood the grandest building 
my young eyes had ever beheld, called by everyone on the 
plantation the great house. This was occupied by Col. Lloyd 
and his family. It was surrounded by numerous and variously 
shaped out-buildings. There were kitchens, wash-houses, 
dairies, summer-houses, green-houses, hen-houses, turkey- 
houses, pigeon-houses, and arbors of many sizes and devices, 


all neatly painted or whitewashed — interspersed with grand 
old trees, ornamental and primitive, which afforded delightful 
shade in summer and imparted to the scene a high degree of 
stately beauty. The great house itself was a large white 
wooden building with wings on three sides of it. In front a 
broad portico extended the entire length of the building, sup- 
ported by a long range of columns, which gave to the Colonel's 
home an air of great dignity and grandeur. It was a treat to 
my young and gradually opening mind to behold this elaborate 
exhibition of wealth, power, and beauty. 

The carriage entrance to the house was by a large gate, more 
than a quarter of a mile distant. The intermediate space was 
a beautiful lawn, very neatly kept and cared for. It was dotted 
thickly over with trees and flowers. The road or lane from 
the gate to the great house was richly paved with white peb- 
bles from the beach, and in its course formed a complete circle 
around the lawn. Outside this select enclosure were parks, 
as about the residences of the English nobility, where rabbits, 
deer, and other wild game might be seen peering and playing 
about, with " none to molest them or make them afraid." The 
tops of the stately poplars were often covered with red-winged 
blackbirds, making all nature vocal with the joyous life and 
beauty of their wild, warbling notes. These all belonged to me 
as well as to Col. Edward Lloyd, and, whether they did or not, 
I greatly enjoyed them. Not far from the great house were 
the stately mansions of the dead Lloyds — a place of somber 
aspect. Vast tombs, embowered beneath the weeping willow 
and the fir tree, told of the generations of the family, as well 
as their wealth. Superstition was rife among the slaves about 
this family burying-ground. Strange sights had been seen 
there by some of the older slaves, and I was often compelled to 
hear stories of shrouded ghosts, riding on great black horses, 
and of balls of fire which had been seen to fly there at midnight, 
and of startling and dreadful sounds that had been repeatedly 
heard. Slaves knew enough of the Orthodox theology at the 
time, to consign all bad slaveholders to hell, and they often 


fancied such persons wishing themselves back again to wield 
the lash. Tales of sights and sounds strange and terrible, 
connected with the huge black tombs, were a great security to 
the grounds about them, for few of the slaves had the courage 
to approach them during the day time. It was a dark, gloomy 
and forbidding place, and it was difficult to feel that the spirits 
of the sleeping dust there deposited reigned with the blest in 
the realms of eternal peace. 

Here was transacted the business of twenty or thirty dif- 
ferent farms, which, with the slaves upon them, numbering, in 
all, not less than a thousand, all belonged to Col. Lloyd. Each 
farm was under the management of an overseer, whose word 
was law. 

Mr. Lloyd at this time was very rich. His slaves alone, 
numbering as I have said not less than a thousand, were an 
immense fortune, and though scarcely a month passed without 
the sale of one or more lots to the Georgia traders, there was 
no apparent diminution in the number of his human stock. 
The selling of any to the State of Georgia was a sore and 
mournful event to those left behind, as well as to the victims 

The reader has already been informed of the handicrafts 
carried on here by the slaves. " Uncle " Toney was the black- 
smith, "Uncle" Harry the cartwright, and "Uncle" Abel was 
the shoemaker, and these had assistants in their several de- 
partments. These mechanics were called "Uncles" by all the 
younger slaves, not because they really sustained that relation- 
ship to any, but according to plantation etiquette as a mark 
of respect, due from the younger to the older slaves. Strange 
and even ridiculous as it may seem, among a people so uncul- 
tivated and with so many stern trials to look in the face, 
there is not to be found among any people a more rigid 
enforcement of the law of respect to elders than is maintained 
among them. I set this down as partly constitutional with 
the colored race and partly conventional. There is no better 
material in the world for making a gentleman than is furnished 
in the African. 


Among other slave notabilities, I found here one called by 
everybody, white and colored, " Uncle " Isaac Copper. It was 
seldom that a slave, however venerable, was honored with a 
surname in Maryland, and so completely has the south shaped 
the manners of the north in this respect that their right to 
such honor is tardily admitted even now. It goes sadly against 
the grain to address and treat a negro as one would address 
and treat a white man. But once in a while, even in a slave 
state, a negro had a surname fastened to him by common con- 
sent. This was the case with "Uncle" Isaac Copper. When 
the "Uncle" was dropped, he was called Doctor Copper. He 
was both our Doctor of Medicine and our Doctor of Divinity. 
Where he took his degree I am unable to say, but he was too 
well established in his profession to permit question as to his 
native skill, or attainments. One qualification he certainly 
had. He was a confirmed cripple, wholly unable to work, and 
was worth nothing for sale in the market. Though lame, he 
was no sluggard. He made his crutches do him good service, 
and was always on the alert looking up the sick, and such as 
were supposed to need his aid and counsel. His remedial pre- 
scriptions embraced four articles. For diseases of the body, 
epsom salts and castor oil ; for those of the soul, the " Lord's 
prayer," and a few stout hickory switches. 

I was early sent to Doctor Isaac Copper, with twenty or 
thirty other children, to learn the Lord's prayer. The old man 
was seated on a huge three-legged oaken stool, armed with 
several large hickory switches, and from the point where he 
sat, lame as he was, he could reach every boy in the room. 
After standing a while to learn what was expected of us, he 
commanded us to kneel down. This done, he told us to say 
everything he said. " Our Father" — this we repeated after him 
with promptness and uniformity — "who art in Heaven," was 
less promptly and uniformly repeated, and the old gentleman 
paused in the prayer to give us a short lecture, and to use his 
switches on our backs. 

Everybody in the South seemed to want the privilege of 


whipping somebody else. Uncle Isaac, though a good old 
man, shared the common passion of his time and country. I 
cannot say I was much edified by attendance upon his ministry. 
There was even at that time something a little inconsistent 
and laughable, in my mind, in the blending of prayer with 
punishment. I was not long in my new home before I found 
that the dread I had conceived of Captain Anthony was in a 
measure groundless. Instead of leaping out from some hiding 
place and destroying me, he hardly seemed to notice my pres- 
ence. He probably thought as little of my arrival there, as of 
an additional pig to his stock. He was the chief agent of his 
employer. The overseers of all the farms composing the Lloyd 
estate, were in some sort under him. The Colonel himself seldom 
addressed an overseer, or allowed himself to be addressed by 
one. To Captain Anthony, therefore, was committed the head- 
ship of all the farms. He carried the keys of all the store- 
houses, weighed and measured the allowances of each slave, 
at the end of each month ; superintended the storing of all 
goods brought to the store-house ; dealt out the raw material 
to the different handicraftsmen, shipped the grain, tobacco, 
and all other saleable produce of the numerous farms to Balti- 
more, and had a general oversight of all the workshops of the 
place. In addition to all this he was frequently called abroad 
to Easton and elsewhere in the discharge of his numerous 
duties as chief agent of the estate. 

The family of Captain Anthony consisted of two sons — An- 
drew and Richard, his daughter Lucretia and her newly 
married husband, Captain Thomas Auld. In the kitchen were 
Aunt Katy, Aunt Esther, and ten or a dozen children, most of 
them older than myself. Capt. Anthony was not considered a 
rich slave-holder, though he was pretty well off in the world. 
He owned about thirty slaves and three farms in the Tuckahoe 
district. The more valuable part of his property was in slaves, 
of whom he sold one every year, which brought him in seven 
or eight hundred dollars, besides his yearly salary and other 
revenue from his lands. 


I have been often asked during the earlier part of my free 
life at the north, how I happened to have so little of the slave 
accent in my speech. The mystery is in some measure 
explained by my association with Daniel Lloyd, the youngest 
son of Col. Edward Lloyd. The law of compensation holds 
here as well as elsewhere. While this lad could not associate 
with ignorance without sharing its shade, he could not give his 
black playmates his company without giving them his superior 
intelligence as well. Without knowing this, or caring about it 
at the time, I, for some cause or other, was attracted to him 
and was much his companion. 

I had little to do with the older brothers of Daniel — Edward 
and Murray. They were grown up and were fine looking men. 
Edward was especially esteemed by the slave children and by 
me among the rest, not that he ever said anything to us or for 
us which could be called particularly kind. It was enough for 
us that he never looked or acted scornfully toward us. The 
idea of rank and station was rigidly maintained on this estate. 
The family of Captain Anthony never visited the great house, 
and the Lloyds never came to our house. Equal non-inter- 
course was observed between Captain Anthony's family and 
the family of Mr. Seveir, the overseer. 

Such, kind readers, was the community and such the place 
in which my earliest and most lasting impressions of the 
workings of slavery were received — of which impressions you 
will learn more in the after coming chapters of this book. 



Increasing acquaintance with old Master — Evils of unresisted passion — 
Apparent tenderness — A man of trouble — Custom of muttering to himself 
— Brutal outrage — A drunken overseer — Slaveholder's impatience — Wis- 
dom of appeal — A base and selfish attempt to break up a courtship. 

ALTHOUGH my old master, Captain Anthony, gave me, 
at the first of my coming to him from my grandmother's, 
very little attention, and although that little was of a remark- 
ably mild and gentle description, a few months only were 
sufficient to convince me that mildness and gentleness were 
not the prevailing or governing traits of his character. These 
excellent qualities were displayed only occasionally. He could, 
when it suited him, appear to be literally insensible to the 
claims of humanity. He could not only be deaf to the appeals 
of the helpless against the aggressor, but he could himself 
commit outrages deep, dark, and nameless. Yet he was not 
by nature worse than other men. Had he been brought up in 
a free state, surrounded by the full restraints of civilized society 
— restraints which are necessary to the freedom of all its 
members, alike and equally, Capt. Anthony might have been 
as humane a man as are members of such society generally. 
A man's character always takes its hue, more or less, from the 
form and color of things about him. The slaveholder, as well 
as the slave, was the victim of the slave system. Under the 
whole heavens there could be no relation more unfavorable to 
the development of honorable character than that sustained 
by the slaveholder to the slave. Eeason is imprisoned here 
and passions run wild. Could the reader have seen Captain 
Anthony gently leading me by the hand, as he sometimes 
did, patting me on the head, speaking to me in soft, caressing 
tones and calling me his little Indian boy, he would have 


a slaveholder's character. 49 

deemed him a kind-hearted old man, and really almost fatherly 
to the slave boy. But the pleasant moods of a slaveholder are 
transient and fitful. They neither come often nor remain 
long. The temper of the old man was subject to special trials, 
but since these trials were never borne patiently, they added 
little to his natural stock of patience. Aside from his troubles 
with his slaves and those of Mr. Lloyd's, he made the impres- 
sion upon me of being an unhappy man. Even to my child's 
eye he wore a troubled and at times a haggard aspect. His 
strange movements excited my curiosity and awakened my 
compassion. He seldom walked alone without muttering to 
himself, and he occasionally stormed about as if defying an 
army of invisible foes. Most of his leisure was spent in walk- 
ing around, cursing and gesticulating as if possessed by a 
demon. He was evidently a wretched man, at war with his 
own soul and all the world around him. To be overheard by 
the children disturbed him very little. He made no more of 
our presence than that of the ducks and geese he met on the 
green. But when his gestures were most violent, ending with 
a threatening shake of the head and a sharp snap of his middle 
finger and thumb, I deemed it wise to keep at a safe distance 
from him. 

One of the first circumstances that opened my eyes to the 
cruelties and wickedness of slavery and its hardening influ- 
ences upon my old master, was his refusal to interpose his 
authority to protect and shield a young woman, a cousin of 
mine, who had been most cruelly abused and beaten by his 
overseer in Tuckahoe. This overseer, a Mr. Plummer, was 
like most of his class, little less than a human brute ; and in 
addition to his general profligacy and repulsive coarseness, 
he was a miserable drunkard, a man not fit to have the man- 
agement of a drove of mules. In one of his moments of 
drunken madness he committed the outrage which brought 
the young woman in question down to my old master's for 
protection. The poor girl, on her arrival at our house, pre- 
sented a most pitiable appearance. She had left in haste 
and without preparation, and probably without the knowledge 


of Mr. Plummer. She had traveled twelve miles, bare-footed, 
bare-necked, and bare-headed. Her neck and shoulders were 
covered with scars newly made, and not content with marring 
her neck and shoulders with the cowhide, the cowardly wretch 
had dealt her a blow on the head with a hickory club, which 
cut a horrible gash and left her face literally covered with 
blood. In this condition the poor young woman came down 
to implore protection at the hands of my old master. I 
expected to see him boil over with rage at the revolting deed, 
and to hear him fill the air with curses upon the brutal Hum- 
mer; but I was disappointed, lie sternly told her in an 
angry tone, " She deserved every bit of it, and if she did not 
go home instantly he would himself take the remaining skin 
from her neck and back." Thus the poor girl was compelled 
to return without redress, and perhaps to receive an additional 
flogging for daring to appeal to authority higher than that of 
the overseer. 

I did not at that time understand the philosophy of this 
treatment of my cousin. 1 think I now understand it. This 
treatment was a part of the system, rather than a part of the 
man. To have encouraged appeals of this kind would have 
occasioned much loss of time, and leave the overseer power- 
less to enforce obedience. Nevertheless, when a slave had 
nerve enough to go straight to his master, with a well-founded 
complaint against an overseer, though he might be repelled 
and have even that of which he complained at the time re- 
peated, and though he might be beaten by. his master as well 
as by the overseer, for his temerity, in the end, the policy of 
complaining was generally vindicated by the relaxed rigor 
of the overseer's treatment. The latter became more careful 
and less disposed to use the lash upon such slaves thereafter. 

The overseer very naturally disliked to have the ear of the 
master disturbed by complaints, and either for this reason or 
because of advice privately given him by his employer, he 
generally modified the rigor of his rule after complaints of 
this kind had been made against him. For some cause or 
other the slaves, no matter how often they were repulsed by 


their masters, were ever disposed to regard them with less 
abhorrence than the overseer. And yet these masters would 
often go beyond their overseers in wanton cruelty. They 
wielded the lash without any sense of responsibility. They 
could cripple or kill without fear of consequences. I have 
seen my old master in a tempest of wrath, full of pride, 
hatred, jealousy, and revenge, where he seemed a very fiend. 

The circumstances which I am about to narrate, and which 
gave rise to this fearful tempest of passion, were not singular, 
but very common in our slave-holding community. 

The reader will have noticed that among the names of 
slaves, Esther is mentioned. This was a young woman who 
possessed that which was ever a curse to the slave girl — 
namely, personal beauty. She was tall, light-colored, well 
formed, and made a fine appearance. Esther was courted by 
" Ned Roberts," the son of a favorite slave of Col. Lloyd, 
who was as fine-looking a young man as Esther was a woman. 
Some slave-holders would have been glad to have promoted 
the marriage of two such persons, but for some reason, Cap- 
tain Anthony disapproved of their courtship. He strictly 
ordered her to quit the company of young Roberts, telling 
her that he would punish her severely if he ever found her 
again in his company. But it was impossible to keep this 
couple apart. Meet they would, and meet they did. Had 
Mr. Anthony been himself a man of honor, his motives in 
this matter might have appeared more favorably. As it was, 
they appeared as abhorrent as they were contemptible. It 
was one of the damning characteristics of slavery, that it 
robbed its victims of every earthly incentive to a holy life. 
The fear of God and the hope of heaven were sufficient to 
sustain many slave women amidst the snares and dangers of 
their strange lot ; but they were ever at the mercy of the 
power, passion, and caprice of their owners. Slavery pro- 
vided no means for the honorable perpetuation of the race. 
Yet despite of this destitution there were many men and 
women among the slaves who were true and faithful to each 
other through life. 


But to the case in hand. Abhorred and circumvented as 
he was, Captain Anthony, having the power, was determined 
on revenge. I happened to see its shocking execution, and 
shall never forget the scene. It was early in the morning, 
when all was still, and before any of the family in the house 
or kitchen had risen. I was, in fact, awakened by the heart- 
rending shrieks and piteous cries of poor Esther. My sleep- 
ing-place was on the dirt floor of a little rough closet which 
opened into the kitchen, and through the cracks in its unplaned 
boards I could distinctly see and hear what was going on, 
without being seen. Esther's wrists were firmly tied, and the 
twisted rope was fastened to a strong iron staple in a heavy 
wooden beam above, near the fire-place. Here she stood on a 
bench, her arms tightly drawn above her head. Her back 
and shoulders were perfectly bare. Behind her stood old 
master, with cowhide in hand, pursuing his barbarous work 
with all manner of harsh, coarse, and tantalizing epithets. 
He was cruelly deliberate, and protracted the torture as one 
who was delighted with the agony of his victim. Again and 
again he drew the hateful scourge through his hand, adjusting 
it with a view of dealing the most pain-giving blow his strength 
and skill could inflict. Poor Esther had never before been 
severely whipped. Her shoulders were plump and tender. 
Each blow, vigorously laid on, brought screams from her as 
well as blood. " Have mercy ! Oh, mercy ! " she cried. " I 
wont do so no more." But her piercing cries seemed only to 
increase his fury. The whole scene, with all its attendants, 
was revolting and shocking to the last degree, and when the 
motives for the brutal castigation are known, language has no 
power to convey a just sense of its dreadful criminality. 
After laying on I dare not say how many stripes, old master 
untied his suffering victim. When let down she could scarcely 
stand. From my heart I pitied her, and child as I was, and 
new to such scenes, the shock was tremendous. I was terri- 
fied, hushed, stunned, and bewildered. The scene here de- 
scribed was often repeated, for Edward and Esther continued 
to meet, notwithstanding all efforts to prevent their meeting. 



The author's early reflections on Slavery — Aunt Jennie and Uncle Noah- 
Presentment of one day becoming a freeman — Conflict between an over- 
seer and a slave woman — Advantage of resistance — Death of an overseer — 
Col. Lloyd's plantation home — Monthly distribution of food — Singing of 
Slaves — An explanation — The slaves' food and clothing — Naked children 
— Life in the quarter — Sleeping places — not beds — Deprivation of sleep — 
Care of nursing babies — Ash cake — Contrast. 

THE incidents related in the foregoing chapter led me thus 
early to inquire into the origin and nature of slavery. 
Why am I a slave ? Why are some people slaves and others 
masters ? These were perplexing questions and very trouble- 
some to my childhood. I was told by some one very early that 
" God up in the sky " had made all things, and had made black 
people to be slaves and white people to be masters. I was 
told too that God was good and that he knew what was best 
for everybody. This was, however, less satisfactory than the 
first statement. It came point blank against all my notions 
of goodness. The case of Aunt Esther was in my mind. Be- 
sides, I could not tell how anybody could know that God made 
black people to be slaves. Then I found, too, that there were 
puzzling exceptions to this theory of slavery, in the fact that 
all black people were not slaves, and all white people were not 
masters. An incident occurred about this time that made a 
deep impression on my mind. One of the men slaves of Cap- 
tain Anthony and my Aunt Jennie ran away. A great noise 
was made about it. Old master was furious. He said he 
would follow them and catch them and bring them back, but 
he never did it, and somebody told me that Uncle Noah and 
Aunt Jennie had gone to the free states and were free. Be- 
sides this occurrence, which brought much light to my mind 



on the subject, there were several slaves on Mr. Lloyd's 
place who remembered being brought from Africa. There 
were others that told me that their fathers and mothers were 
stolen from Africa. 

This to me was important knowledge, but not such as to 
make me feel very easy in my slave condition. The success 
of Aunt Jennie and Uncle Noah in getting away from slavery 
was, I think, the first fact that made me seriously think of 
escape for myself. I could not have been more than seven or 
eight years old at the time of this occurrence, but young as I 
was I was already a fugitive from slavery in spirit and purpose. 

Up to the time of the brutal treatment of my Aunt Esther, 
already narrated, and the shocking plight in which I had seen 
my cousin from Tuckahoe, my attention had not been espec- 
ially directed to the grosser and more revolting features of 
slavery. I had, of course, heard of whippings and savage 
mutilations of slaves by brutal overseers, but happily for me I 
had always been out of the way of such occurrences. My play 
time was spent outside of the corn and tobacco fields, where 
the overseers and slaves were brought together and in conflict. 
But after the case of my Aunt Esther I saw others of the 
same disgusting and shocking nature. The one of these 
which agitated and distressed me most was the whipping of a 
woman, not belonging to my old master, but to Col. Lloyd. 
The charge against her was very common and very indefinite, 
namely, "impudence" This crime could be committed by a 
slave in a hundred different ways, and depended much upon 
the temper and caprice of the overseer as to whether it was 
committed at all. He could create the offense whenever it 
pleased him. A look, a word, a gesture, accidental or inten- 
tional, never failed to be taken as impudence when he was in 
the right mood for such an offense. In this case there were 
all the necessary conditions for the commission of the crime 
charged. The offender was nearly white, to begin with ; she 
was the wife of a favorite hand on board of Mr. Lloyd's sloop 
and was besides the mother of five sprightly children. Vig- 


orous and spirited woman that she was, a wife and a mother, 
with a predominating share of the blood of ^fche master running 
in her veins. Nellie (for that was her name) had all the qualities 
essential to impudence to a slave overseer. My attention was 
called to the scene of the castigation by the loud screams and 
curses that proceeded from the direction of it. When I came 
near the parties engaged in the struggle, the overseer had hold 
of Nelly, endeavoring with his whole strength to drag her to 
a tree against her resistance. Both his and her faces were 
bleeding, for the woman was doing her best. Three of her 
children were present, and though quite small, (from seven to 
ten years old I should think,) they gallantly took the side of 
their mother against the overseer, and pelted him well with 
stones and epithets. Amid the screams of the children " Let 
my mammy go I Let my mammy go ! " the hoarse voice of the 
maddened overseer was heard in terrible oaths that he would 
teach her how to give a white man " impudence" The blood 
on his face and on hers attested her skill in the use of her nails, 
and his dogged determination to conquer. His purpose was to 
tie her up to a tree and give her, in slave-holding parlance, a 
"genteel flogging," and he evidently had not expected the 
stern and protracted resistance he was meeting, or the strength 
and skill needed to its execution. There were times when she 
seemed likely to get the better of the brute, but he finally over- 
powered her, and succeeded in getting her arms firmly tied to 
the tree towards which he had been dragging her. The victim 
was now at the mercy of his merciless lash. What followed 
I need not here describe. The cries of the now helpless 
woman, while undergoing the terrible infliction, were mingled 
with the hoarse curses of the overseer and the wild cries of 
her distracted children. When the poor woman was untied, 
her back was covered with blood. She was whipped, terribly 
whipped, but she was not subdued, and continued to denounce 
the overseer, and pour upon him every vile epithet she could 
think of. Such floggings are seldom repeated by overseers on 
the same persons. They prefer to whip those who were the 


most easily whipped. The doctrine that submission to vio- 
lence is the best cure for violence did not hold good as between 
slaves and overseers. He was whipped oftener who was whip- 
ped easiest. That slave who had the courage to stand up for him- 
self against the overseer, although he might have many hard 
stripes at first, became while legally a slave virtually a free- 
man. " You can shoot me," said a slave to Rigby Hopkins, 
" but you can't whip me," and the result was he was neither 
whipped nor shot. I do not know that Mr. Sevier ever 
attempted to whip Nelly again. He probably never did, for 
not long after he was taken sick and died. It was commonly 
said that his death-bed was a wretched one, and that, the ruling 
passion being strong in death, he died flourishing the 
slave whip and with horrid oaths upon his lips. This death- 
bed scene may only be the imagining of the slaves. One thing 
is certain, that when he was in health his profanity was enough 
to chill the blood of an ordinary man. Nature, or habit, had 
given to his face an expression of uncommon savageness. 
Tobacco and rage had ground his teeth short, and nearly every 
sentence that he uttered was commenced or completed with an 
oath. Hated for his cruelty, despised for his cowardice, he 
went to his grave lamented by nobody on the place outside of 
his own house, if, indeed, he was even lamented there. 

In Mr. James Hopkins, the succeeding overseer, we had a 
different and a better man, as good perhaps as any man could 
be in the position of a slave overseer. Though he sometimes 
wielded the lash, it was evident that he took no pleasure in it 
and did it with much reluctance. He stayed but a short time 
here, and his removal from the position was much regretted 
by the slaves generally. Of the successor of Mr. Hopkins I 
shall have something to say at another time and in another 

For the present we will attend to a further description of 
the business-like aspect of Col. Lloyd^s "Great House" farm. 
There was always much bustle and noise here on the two days 
at the end of each month, for then the slaves belonging to 


the different branches of this great estate assembled here by 
their representatives to obtain their monthly allowances of 
corn-meal and pork. These were gala days for the slaves of 
the outlying farms, and there was much rivalry among them 
as to who should be elected to go up to the Great House farm 
for the "Alloivances" and indeed to attend to any other busi- 
ness at this great place, to them the capitol of a little nation. 
Its beauty and grandeur, its immense wealth, its numerous 
population, and the fact that uncles Harry, Peter, and Jake, 
the sailors on board the sloop, usually kept on sale trinkets 
which they bought in Baltimore to sell to their less fortunate 
fellow-servants, made a visit to the Great House farm a high 
privilege, and eagerly sought. It was valued, too, as a mark 
of distinction and confidence ; but probably the chief motive 
among the competitors for the office was the opportunity it 
afforded to shake off the monotony of the field and to get 
beyond the overseer's eye and lash. Once on the road with 
an ox-team, and seated on the tongue of the cart, with no 
overseer to look after him, he felt himself comparatively free. 
Slaves were expected to sing as well as to work. A silent 
slave was not liked, either by masters or by overseers. " Make 
a noise there! make a noise there/" and " bear a hand," were 
words usually addressed to slaves when they were silent. 
This, and the natural disposition of the negro to make a noise 
in the world, may account for the almost constant singing 
among them when at their work. There was generally more 
or less singing among the teamsters at all times. It was a 
means of telling the overseer, in the distance, where they 
were, and what they were about. But on the allowance days 
those commissioned to the Great House farm were peculiarly 
vocal. While on the way they would make the grand old 
woods for miles around reverberate with their wild and plain- 
tive notes. They were indeed both merry and sad. Child as 
I was, these wild songs greatly depressed my spirits. No- 
where outside of dear old Ireland, in the days of want and 
famine, have I heard sounds so mournful. 


In all these slave songs there was ever some expression of 
praise of the Great House farm — something that would please 
the pride of the Lloyds. 

I am going away to the Great House farm, 

O, yea ! O, yea ! O, yea ! 
My old master is a good old master, 

O, yea! O, yea! O, yea 

These words would be sung over and over again, with others, 
improvised as they went along — jargon, perhaps, to the reader, 
but full of meaning to the singers. I have sometimes thought 
that the mere hearing of these songs would have done more 
to impress the good people of the north with the soul-crush- 
ing character of slavery than whole volumes exposing the 
physical cruelties of the slave system ; for the heart has no 
language like song. Many years ago, when recollecting my 
experience in this respect, I wrote of these slave songs in the 
following strain : 

" I did not, when a slave, fully understand the deep mean- 
ing of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was, 
myself, within the circle, so that I could then neither hear 
nor see as those without might see and hear. They breathed 
the prayer and complaint of souls overflowing with the bitter- 
est anguish. They depressed my spirits and filled my heart 
with ineffable sadness." 

The remark in the olden time was not unfrequently made, 
that slaves were the most contented and happy laborers in 
the world, and their dancing and singing were referred to in 
proof of this alleged fact ; but it was a great mistake to sup- 
pose them happy because they sometimes made those joyful 
noises. The songs of the slaves represented their sorrows, 
rather than their joys. Like tears, they were a relief to 
aching hearts. It is not inconsistent with the constitution of 
the human mind, that avails itself of one and the same method 
for expressing opposite emotions. Sorrow and desolation 
have their songs, as well as joy and peace. 

It was the boast of slaveholders that their slaves enjoyed 


more of the physical comforts of life than the peasantry of 
any country in the world. My experience contradicts this. 
The men and the women slaves on Col. Lloyd's farm received 
as their monthly allowance of food, eight pounds of pickled 
pork, or its equivalent in fish. The pork was often tainted, 
and the fish were of the poorest quality. With their pork or 
fish, they had given them one bushel of Indian meal, unbolted, 
of which quite fifteen per cent, was more fit for pigs than for 
men. With this one pint of salt was given, and this was the 
entire monthly allowance of a full-grown slave, working con- 
stantly in the open field from morning till night every day in 
the month except Sunday. There is no kind of work which 
really requires a better supply of food to prevent physical 
exhaustion than the field work of a slave. The yearly allow- 
ance of clothing was not more ample than the supply of food. 
It consisted of two tow-linen shirts, one pair of trowsers of 
the same coarse material, for summer, and a woolen pair of 
trowsers and a woolen jacket for winter, with one pair of 
yarn stockings and a pair of shoes of the coarsest description. 
Children under ten years old had neither shoes, stockings, 
':ets, nor trowsers. They had two coarse tow-linen shirts 
per year, and when these were worn out they went naked till 
the next allowance day — and this was the condition of the 
little girls as well as the boys. As to beds, they had none. 
One coarse blanket was given them, and this only to the men 
and women. The children stuck themselves in holes and 
corners about the quarters, often in the corners of huge chim- 
neys, with their feet in the ashes to keep them warm. The 
want of beds, however, was not considered a great privation 
by the field hands. Time to sleep was of far greater import- 
ance. For when the day's work was done most of these had 
their washing, mending, and cooking to do, and having few 
or no facilities for doing such things, very many of their 
needed sleeping hours were consumed in necessary prepara- 
tions for the labors of the coming day. The sleeping apart- 
ments, if they could have been properly called such, had little 

60 . ASH CAKE. 

regard to comfort or decency. Old and young, male and 
female, married and single, dropped down upon the common 
clay floor, each covering up with his or her blanket, their 
only protection from cold or exposure. The night, however, 
was shortened at both ends. The slaves worked often as long 
as they could see, and were late in cooking and mending for 
the coming day, and at the first gray streak of the morning 
they were summoned to the field by the overseer's horn. 
They were whipped for over-sleeping more than for any other 
fault. Neither age nor sex found any favor. The overseer 
stood at the quarter door, armed with stick and whip, ready 
to deal heavy blows upon any who might be a little behind 
time. When the horn was blown there was a rush for the 
door, for the hindcrmost one was sure to get a blow from the 
overseer. Young mothers who worked in the field were 
allowed an hour about ten o'clock in the morning to go home 
to nurse their children. This was when they were not re- 
quired to take them to the field with them, and leave them 
upon " turning row," or in the corner of the fences. 

As a general rule the slaves did not come to their quarters 
to take their meals, but took their ash-cake (called thus be- 
cause baked in the ashes) and piece of pork, or their salt her- 
rings, where they were at work. 

But let us now leave the rough usage of the field, where 
vulgar coarseness and brutal cruelty flourished as rank as 
weeds in the tropics, where a vile wretch, in the shape of a 
man, rides, walks, and struts about, with whip in hand, deal- 
ing heavy blows and leaving deep gashes on the flesh of men 
and women, and turn our attention to the less repulsive slave 
life as it existed in the home of my childhood. Some idea 
of the splendor of that place sixty years ago has already 
been given. The contrast between the condition of the slaves 
and that of their masters was marvelously sharp and striking. 
There were pride, pomp, and luxury on the one hand, servility, 
dejection, and misery on the other. 



Contrasts — Great House luxuries — Its hospitality — Entertainments — Fault- 
finding — Shameful humiliation of an old Snd faithful coachman-*- William 
Wilks — Curious incident — Expressed satisfaction not always genuine — 
Reasons for suppressing the truth. 

THE close-fisted stinginess that fed the poor slave on coarse 
corn-meal and tainted meat, that clothed him in crashy 
tow-linen and hurried him on to toil through the field in all 
weathers, with wind and rain beating through his tattered 
garments, that scarcely gave even the young slave-mother 
time to nurse her infant in the fence-corner, wholly vanished 
on approaching the sacred precincts of the " Great House " 
itself. There the scriptural phrase descriptive of the wealthy 
found exact illustration. The highly-favored inmates of this 
mansion were literally arrayed in " purple and fine linen, and 
fared sumptuously every day." The table of this house 
groaned under the blood-bought luxuries gathered with pains- 
taking care at home and abroad. Fields, forests, rivers, and 
seas were made tributary. Immense wealth and its lavish 
expenditures filled the Great House with all that could please 
the eye or tempt the taste. Fish, flesh, and fowl were here 
in profusion. Chickens of all breeds ; ducks of all kinds, 
wild and tame, the common and the huge Muscovite ; Guinea 
fowls, turkeys, geese, and pea-fowls were fat, and fattening 
for the destined vortex. Here the graceful swan, the mon- 
grels, the black-necked wild goose, partridges, quails, pheas- 
ants and pigeons, choice water-fowl, with all their strange 
varieties, were caught in this huge net. Beef, veal, mutton, 
and venison, of the most select kinds and quality, rolled in 
bounteous profusion to this grand consumer. The teeming 



riches of the Chesapeake Bay, its rock perch, drums, crocus, 
trout, oysters, crabs, and terrapin were drawn hither to adorn 
the glittering table. The dairy, too, the finest then on the 
eastern shore of Maryland, supplied by cattle of the best 
English stock, imported for the express purpose, poured its 
rich donations of fragrant cheese, golden butter, and delicious 
cream to heighten the attractions of the gorgeous, unending 
round of feasting. Nor were the fruits of the earth over- 
looked. The fertile garden, many acres in size, constituting 
a separate establishment distinct from the common farm, with 
its scientific gardener direct from Scotland, a Mr. McDermott, 
and four men under his direction, was not behind, either in 
the abundance or in the delicacy of its contributions. The 
tender asparagus, the crispy celery, and the delicate cauli- 
flower, egg plants, beets, lettuce, parsnips, peas, and French 
beans, early and late, radishes, cantelopes, melons of all 
kinds ; and the fruits of all climes and of every description, 
from the hardy apples of the north to the lemon and orange 
of the south, culminated at this point. Here were gathered 
figs, raisins, almonds, and grapes from Spain, wines and 
brandies from France, teas of various flavor from China, and 
rich, aromatic coffee from Java, all conspiring to swell the 
tide of high life, where pride and indolence lounged in mag- 
nificence and satiety. 

Behind the tall-backed and elaborately wrought chairs stood 
the servants, fifteen in number, carefully selected, not only 
with a view to their capacity and adeptness, but with especial 
regard to their personal appearance, their graceful agility, 
and pleasing address. Some of these servants, armed with 
fans, wafted reviving breezes to the over-heated brows of the 
alabaster ladies, whilst others watched with eager eye and 
fawn-like step, anticipating and supplying wants before they 
were sufficiently formed to be announced by word or sign. 

These servants constituted a sort of black aristocracy. 
They resembled the field hands in nothing except their color, 
and in this they held the advantage of a velvet-like glossiness, 


rich and beautiful. The hair, too, showed the same advamV 
age. The delicately-formed colored maid rustled in the 
scarcely-worn silk of her young mistress, while the servant 
men were equally well attired from the overflowing wardrobe 
of their young masters, so that in dress, as well as in form 
and feature, in manner and speech, in tastes and habits, the 
distance between these favored few and the sorrow and hun- 
ger-smitten multitudes of the quarter and the field was im- 

In the stables and carriage-houses were to be found the 
same evidences of pride and luxurious extravagance. Here 
were three splendid coaches, soft within and lustrous without. 
Here, too, were gigs, phaetons, barouches, sulkeys, and sleighs. 
Here were saddles and harnesses, beautifully wrought and 
richly mounted. Not less than thirty-five horses of the best 
approved blood, both for speed and beauty, were kept only 
for pleasure. The care of these horses constituted the entire 
occupation of two men, one or the other of them being always 
in the stable to answer any call which might be made from 
the Great House. Over the way from the stable was a house 
built expressly for the hounds, a pack of twenty-five or thirty, 
the fare for which would have made glad the hearts of a dozen 
slaves. Horses and hounds, however, were not the only con- 
sumers of the slave's toil. The hospitality practiced at the 
Lloyd's would have astonished and charmed many a health- 
seeking divine or merchant from the north. Viewed from 
his table, and not from the field, Colonel Lloyd was, indeed, a 
model of generous hospitality. His house was literally a 
hotel for weeks, during the summer months. At these times, 
especially, the air was freighted with the rich fumes of bak- 
ing, boiling, roasting, and broiling. It was something to me 
that I could share these odors with the winds, even if the 
meats themselves were under a more stringent monopoly. In 
master Daniel I had a friend at court, who would sometimes 
give me a cake, and who kept me well informed as to their 
guests and their entertainments. Viewed from Col. Lloyd'g 


table, who could have said that his slaves were not well clad 
and well cared for ? Who would have said they did not glory 
in being the slaves of such a master ? Who but a fanatic 
could have seen any cause for sympathy for either master or 
slave ? Alas, this immense wealth, this gilded splendor, this 
profusion of luxury, this exemption from toil, this life of ease, 
this sea of plenty were not the pearly gates they seemed to a 
world of happiness and sweet content. The poor slave, on 
his hard pine plank, scantily covered with his thin blanket, 
slept more soundly than the feverish voluptuary who reclined 
upon his downy pillow. Food to the indolent is poison, not 
sustenance. Lurking beneath the rich and tempting viands 
were invisible spirits of evil, which filled the self-deluded 
gourmandizer with aches and pains, passions uncontrollable, 
fierce tempers, dyspepsia, rheumatism, lumbago, and gout, 
and of these the Lloyds had a full share. 

I had many opportunities of witnessing the restless discon- 
tent and capricious irritation of the Lloyds. My fondness for 
horses attracted me to the stables much of the time. The two 
men in charge of this establishment were old and young Bar- 
ney — father and son. Old Barney was a fine looking, portly 
old man of a brownish complexion, and a respectful and dig- 
nified bearing. He was much devoted to his profession, and 
held his office as an honorable one. He was a farrier as well 
as an ostler, and could bleed, remove lampers from their 
mouths, and administer medicine to horses. No one on the 
farm knew so well as old Barney what to do with a sick horse ; 
but his office was not an enviable one, and his gifts and 
acquirements were of little advantage to him. In nothing was 
Col. Lloyd more unreasonable and exacting than in respect to 
the management of his horses. Any supposed inattention to 
these animals was sure to be visited with degrading punish- 
ment. His horses and dogs fared better than his men. Their 
beds were far softer and cleaner than those of his human cat- 
tle. No excuse could shield old Barney if the Colonel only 
suspected something wrong about his horses, and consequently 

Col. Lloyd Whipping Barney. 


he was often punished when faultless. It was painful to hear 
the unreasonable and fretful scoldings administered by Col. 
Lloyd, his son Murray, and his sons-in-law, to this poor man. 
Three of the daughters of Col. Lloyd were married, and they 
with their husbands remained at the great house a portion of 
the year, and enjoyed the luxury of whipping the servants 
when they pleased. A horse was seldom brought out of the 
stable to which no objection could be raised. " There was dust 
in his hai«>; " " there was a twist in his reins ; " " his f oretop 
was not combed ; " " his mane did not lie straight ; " " his head 
did not look well ; " " his fetlocks had not been properly 
trimmed." Something was always wrong. However ground- 
less the complaint, Barney must stand, hat in hand, lips sealed, 
never answering a word in explanation or excuse. In a free 
State, a master thus complaining without cause, might be told 
by his ostler : " Sir, I am sorry I cannot please you, but since 
I have done the best I can and fail to do so, your remedy is 
to dismiss me." But here the ostler must listen and trem- 
blingly abide his master's behest. One of the most heart-sadden- 
ing and humiliating scenes I ever witnessed was the whipping of 
old Barney by Col. Lloyd. These two men were both advanced 
in years ; there were the silver locks of the master, and the 
bald and toil-worn brow of the slave — superior and inferior 
here, powerful and weak here, but equals before God. " Un- 
cover your head," said the imperious master; he was obeyed. 
" Take off your jacket, you old rascal ! " and off came Bar- 
ney's jacket. " Down on your knees ! " down knelt the old 
man, his shoulders bare, his bald head glistening in the sun- 
shine, and his aged knees on the cold, damp ground. In this 
humble and debasing attitude, that master, to whom he had 
devoted the best years and the best strength of his life, came 
forward and laid on thirty lashes with his horse-whip. The 
old man made no resistance, but bore it patiently, answering 
each blow with only a shrug of the shoulders and a groan. I 
do not think that the physical suffering from this infliction was 
severe, for the whip was a light riding-whip ; but the spectacle 


of an aged man — a husband and a father — humblv kneeling 
before his fellow-man, shocked me at the time ; and since I 
have grown older, few of the features of slavery have impressed 
me with a deeper sense of its injustice and barbarity than this 
exciting scene. I owe it to the truth, however, to say that 
this was the first and last time I ever saw a slave compelled 
to kneel to receive a whipping. 

Another incident, illustrating a phase of slavery to which 
I have referred in another connection, I may here mention. 
Besides two other coachmen, Col. Lloyd owned one named 
William Wilks, and his was one of the exceptionable cases 
where a slave possessed a surname, and was recognized by it, 
by both colored and white people. Wilks was a very fine-look- 
ing man. He was about as white as any one on the planta- 
tion, and in form and feature bore a very striking resemblance 
to Murray Lloyd. It was whispered and generally believed 
that William Wilks was a son of Col. Lloyd, by a highly 
favored slave-woman, who was still on the plantation. There 
were many reasons for believing this whisper, not only from 
his personal appearance, but from the undeniable freedom 
which he enjoyed over all others, and his apparent conscious- 
ness of being something more than a slave to his master. It 
was notorious too that William had a deadly enemy in Mur- 
ray Lloyd, whom he so much resembled, and that the latter 
greatly worried his father with importunities to sell William. 
Indeed, he gave his father no rest, until he did sell him to 
Austin Woldfolk, the great slave-trader at that time. Before 
selling him, however, he tried to make things smooth by giv- 
ing William a whipping, but it proved a failure. It was a 
compromise, and like most such, defeated itself, — for soon 
after Col. Lloyd atoned to William for the abuse by giving him a 
gold watch and chain. Another fact somewhat curious was, 
that though sold to the remorseless Woldfolk, taken in irons 
to Baltimore, and cast into prison, with a view to being 
sent to the South, William outbid ail his purchasers, paid for 
himself, and afterwards resided in Baltimore. How this was 


accomplished was a great mystery at the time, explained only 
on the supposition that the hand which had bestowed the gold 
watch and chain had also supplied the purchase-money, but I 
have since learned that this was not the true explanation. 
Wilks had many friends in Baltimore and Annapolis, and they 
united to save him from a fate which was the one of all others 
most dreaded by the slaves. Practical amalgamation was how- 
ever so common at the South, and so many circumstances 
pointedin that direction, that there was little reason to doubt 
that William Wilks was the son of Edward Lloyd. 

The real feelings and opinions of the slaves were not much 
known or respected by their masters. The distance between 
the two was too great to admit of such knowledge ; and in 
this respect Col. Lloyd was no exception to the rule. His 
slaves were so numerous he did not know them when he saw 
them. Nor, indeed, did all his slaves know him. It is re- 
ported of him, that riding along the road one day he met a 
colored man, and addressed him in what was the usual way 
of speaking to colored people on the public highways of the 
South : " Weil, boy, who do you belong to ? " " To Col. Lloyd," 
replied the slave. "Well, does the Colonel treat you well?" 
" No, sir," was the ready reply. " What, does he work you 
hard ? " " Yes, sir." " Well, don't he give you enough to eat?" 
" Yes, sir, he gives me enough to eat, such as it is." The 
Colonel rode on ; the slave also went on about his business, 
not dreaming that he had been conversing with his master. 
He thought and said nothing of the matter, until two or three 
weeks afterwards, he was informed by his overseer that for 
having found fault with his master, he was now to be sold to 
a Georgia trader. He was immediately chained and hand- 
cuffed ; and thus without a moment's warning, he was snatched 
away, and forever sundered from his family and friends by a 
hand as unrelenting as that of death. This was the penalty 
of telling the simple truth, in answer to a series of plain ques- 
tions. It was partly in consequence of such facts, that slaves, 
when inquired of as to their condition and the character of 


their masters, would almost invariably say that they were con- 
tented and their masters kind. Slaveholders are known to 
have sent spies among their slaves to ascertain if possible their 
views and feelings in regard to their condition ; hence the 
maxim established among them, that " a still tongue makes a 
wise head." They would suppress the truth rather than take 
the consequences of telling it, and in so doing they prove 
themselves a part of the human family. I was frequently 
asked if I had a kind master, and I do not remember ever to 
have given a negative reply. I did not consider myself as 
uttering that which was strictly untrue, for I always measured 
the kindness of my master by the standard of kindness set 
up by the slaveholders around us. 

chapter vm. 


Austin Gore — Sketch of his character — Overseers as a class — Their peculiar 
characteristics — The marked individuality of Austin Gore — His sense of 
duty — Murder of poor Denby — Sensation — How Gore made his peace 
with Col. Lloyd — Other horrible murders — No laws for the protection of 
slaves possible of being enforced. 

THE comparatively moderate rule of Mr. Hopkins as over- 
seer on Col Lloyd's plantation was succeeded by that of 
another whose name was Austin Gore. I hardly know how 
to bring this man fitly before the reader, for under him there 
was more suffering from violence and bloodshed than had, 
according to the older slaves, ever been experienced before at 
this place. He was an overseer, and possessed the peculiar 
characteristics of his class, yet to call him merely an over- 
seer would not give one a fair conception of the man. I 
speak of overseers as a class, for they were such. They were 
as distinct from the slave-holding gentry of the south as are 
the fish-women of Paris, and the coal-heavers of London, dis- 
tinct from other grades of society. They constituted a sepa- 
rate fraternity at the south. They were arranged and classi- 
fied by that great law of attraction which determines the 
sphere and affinities of men ; which ordains that men whose 
malign and brutal propensities preponderate over their moral 
and intellectual endowments shall naturally fall into those 
employments which promise the largest gratification to those 
predominating instincts or propensities. The office of over- 
seer took this raw material of vulgarity and brutality, and 
stamped it as a distinct class in southern life. But in this 
class, as in all other classes, there were sometimes persons of 
marked individuality, yet with a general resemblance to the 



mass. Mr. Gore was one of those to whom a general char- 
acterization would do no manner of justice. He was an over- 
seer, but he was something more. With the malign and 
tyrannical qualities of an overseer he combined something of 
the lawful master. He had the artfulness and mean ambi- 
tion of his class, without its disgusting swagger and noisy 
bravado. There was an easy air of independence about him ; 
a calm self-possession ; at the same time a sternness of glance 
which well might daunt less timid hearts than those of poor 
slaves, accustomed from childhood to cower before a driver's 
lash. He was one of those overseers who could torture the 
slightest word or look into impudence, and he had the nerve 
not only to resent, but to punish promptly and severely. 
There could be no answering back. Guilty or not guilty, to 
be accused was to be sure of a flogging. His very presence 
was fearful, and I shunned him as I would have shunned a 
rattlesnake. His piercing black eyes and sharp, shrill voice 
ever awakened sensations of dread. Other overseers, how 
brutal soever they might be, would sometimes seek to gain 
favor with the slaves, by indulging in a little pleasantry ; but 
Gore never said a funny thing, or perpetrated a joke. He 
was always cold, distant, and unapproachable — the overseer 
on Col. Edward Lloyd's plantation — and needed no higher 
pleasure than the performance of the duties of his office. 
When he used the lash, it was from a sense of duty, without 
fear of consequences. There was a stern will, an iron-like 
reality about him, which would easily have made him chief of 
a band of pirates, had his environments been favorable to 
such a sphere. Among many other deeds of shocking cruelty 
committed by him was the murder of a young colored man 
named Bill Denby. He was a powerful fellow, full of animal 
spirits, and one of the most valuable of Col. Lloyd's slaves. 
In some way — I know not what — he offended this Mr. Austin 
Gore, and in accordance with the usual custom the latter 
undertook to flog him. He had given him but few stripes 
when Denby broke away from him, plunged into the creek, 

Gore Shooting Denby. 

gore's defense. 75 

and standing there with the water up to his neck refused to 
come out ; whereupon, for this refusal, Gore shot Mm dead ! 
It was said that Gore gave Denby three calls to come out, 
telling him if he did not obey the last call he should shoot 
him. When the last call was given Denby still stood his 
ground, and Gore, without further parley, or without making 
any further effort to induce obedience, raised his gun deliber- 
ately to his face, took deadly aim at his standing victim, and 
with one click of the gun the mangled body sank out of sight, 
and only his warm red blood marked the place where he had 

This fiendish murder produced, as it could not help doing, 
a tremendous sensation. The slaves were panic-stricken, and 
howled with alarm. The atrocity roused my old master, and 
he spoke out in reprobation of it. Both he and Col. Lloyd 
arraigned Gore for his cruelty ; but he, calm and collected, as 
though nothing unusual had happened, declared that Denby 
had become unmanageable ; that he set a dangerous example 
to the other slaves, and that unless some such prompt measure 
was resorted to there would be an end to all rule and order 
on the plantation. That convenient covert for all manner of 
villainy and outrage, that cowardly alarm-cry, that the slaves 
would " take the place," was pleaded, just as it had been in 
thousands of similar cases. Gore's defense was evidently 
considered satisfactory, for he was continued in his office, 
without being subjected to a judicial investigation. The 
murder was committed in the presence of slaves only, and 
they, being slaves, could neither institute a suit nor testify 
against the murderer. Mr. Gore lived in St. Michaels, Talbot 
Co., Maryland, and I have no reason to doubt, from what I 
know to have been the moral sentiment of the place, that he 
was as highly esteemed and as much respected as though his 
guilty soul had not been stained with innocent blood. 

I speak advisedly when I say that killing a slave, or any 
colored person, in Talbot Co., Maryland, was not treated as a 
crime, either by the courts or the community. Mr. Thomas 


Lanman, ship carpenter of St. Michaels, killed two slaves, 
one of whom he butchered with a hatchet, by knocking his 
brains out. He used to boast of having committed the awful 
and bloody deed. I have heard him do so laughingly, declar- 
ing himself a benefactor of his country, and that "when 
others would do as much as he had done, they would be rid 
of the d d niggers." 

Another notorious fact which I may state was the murder 
of a young girl between fifteen and sixteen years of age, by 
her mistress, Mrs. Giles Hicks, who lived but a short distance 
from Col. Lloyd's. This wicked woman, in the paroxysm of 
her wrath, not content at killing her victim, literally mangled 
her face, and broke her breast-bone. Wild and infuriated as 
she was, she took the precaution to cause the burial of the 
girl ; but, the facts of the case getting abroad, the remains 
were disinterred, and a coroner's jury assembled, who, after 
due deliberation, decided that " the girl had come to her death 
from severe beating." The offense for which this girl was 
thus hurried out of the world was this, she had been set that 
night, and several preceding nights, to mind Mrs. Hicks' baby, 
and having fallen into a sound sleep the crying of the baby 
did not wake her, as it did its mother. The tardiness of the 
girl excited Mrs. Hicks, who, after calling her several times, 
seized a piece of fire-wood from the fire-place, and pounded in 
her skull and breast-bone till death ensued. I will not say 
that this murder most foul produced no sensation. It did 
produce a sensation. A warrant was issued for the arrest of 
Mrs. Hicks, but incredible to tell, for some reason or other, 
that warrant was never served, and she not only escaped con- 
dign punishment, but the pain and mortification as well of 
being arraigned before a court of justice. 

While I am detailing the bloody deeds that took place dur- 
ing my stay on Col. Lloyd's plantation, I will briefly narrate 
another dark transaction, which occurred about the time of 
the murder of Denby. 

On the side of the river Wye, opposite from Col. Lloyd's, 


there lived a Mr. Beal Bondley, a wealthy slaveholder. In 
the direction of his land, and near the shore, there was an 
excellent oyster fishing-ground, and to this some of Lloyd's 
slaves occasionally resorted in their little canoes at night, with 
a view to make up the deficiency of their scanty allowance of 
food by the oysters that they could easily get there. Mr. 
Bondley took it into his head to regard this as a trespass, and 
while an old man slave was engaged in catching a few of the 
many millions of oysters that lined the bottom of the creek, 
to satisfy his hunger, the rascally Bondley, lying in ambush, 
without the slightest warning, discharged the contents of his 
musket into the back of the poor old man. As good fortune 
would have it, the shot did not prove fatal, and Mr. Bondley 
came over the next day to see Col. Lloyd about it. What 
happened between them I know not, but there was little said 
about it and nothing publicly done. One of the commonest 
sayings to which my ears early became accustomed, was that 
it was " worth but a half a cent to kill a nigger, and half a 
cent to bury one." While I heard of numerous murders com- 
mitted by slaveholders on the eastern shore of Maryland, I 
never knew a solitary instance where a slaveholder was either 
hung or imprisoned for having murdered a slave. The usual 
pretext for such crimes was that the slave had offered resist- 
ance. Should a slave, when assaulted, but raise his hand in 
self-defense, the white assaulting party was fully justified by 
southern law, and southern public opinion in shooting the 
slave down, and for this there was no redress. 



Miss Lucretia — Her kindness — How it was manifested — " Ike " — A battle 
with him — Miss Lucretia's balsam — Bread — How it was obtained — Gleams 
of sunlight amidst the general darkness — Suffering from cold — How we 
took our meal mush — Preparations for going to Baltimore — Delight at the 
change — Cousin Tom's opinion of Baltimore — Arrival there — Kind recep- 
tion — .Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Auld — Their son Tommy — My relations to them 
— My duties — A turning-point in my life. 

I HA VE nothing cruel or shocking to relate of my own per- 
sonal experience while 1 remained on Col. Lloyd's planta- 
tion, at the home of my old master. An occasional cuff from 
Aunt Katy, and a regular whipping from old master, such as 
any heedless and mischievous boy might get from his father, 
is all that I have to say of this sort. I was not old enough 
to work in the field, and there being little else than field-work 
to perform, I had much leisure. The most I had to do was to 
drive up the cows in the evening, to keep the front-yard clean, 
and to perform small errands for my young mistress, Lucretia 
Auld. I had reasons for thinking this lady was very kindly 
disposed toward me, and although I was not often the object 
of her attention, I constantly regarded her as my friend, and 
was always glad when it was my privilege to do her a service. 
In a family where there was so much that was harsh and 
indifferent, the slightest word or look of kindness was of 
great value. Miss Lucretia — as we all continued to call her 
long after her marriage — had bestowed on me such looks and 
words as taught me that she 'pitied me, if she did not love me. 
She sometimes gave me a piece of bread and butter, an article 
not set down in our bill of fare, but an extra ration aside from 
both Aunt Katy and old master, and given as I believed solely 
out of the tender regard she had for me. Then too, I one day 



got into the wars with Uncle Abel's son " Ike," and had got 
sadly worsted ; the little rascal struck me directly in the fore- 
head with a sharp piece of cinder, fused with iron, from the 
old blacksmith's forge, which made a cross in my forehead 
very plainly to be seen even now. The gash bled very freely, 
and I roared and betook myself home. The cold-hearted Aunt 
Katy paid no attention either to my wound or my roaring 
except to tell me it " served me right ; I had no business with 
Ike ; it would do me good ; I would now keep away from i dem 
Lloyd niggers.' " Miss Lucretia in this state of the case came 
forward, and called me into the parlor (an extra privilege of 
itself), and without using toward me any of the hard and 
reproachful epithets of Aunt Katy, quietly acted the good 
Samaritan. With her own soft hand she washed the blood 
from my head and face, brought her own bottle of balsam, and 
with the balsam wetted a nice piece of white linen and bound 
up my head. The balsam was not more healing to the wound 
in my head, than her kindness was healing to the wounds in 
my spirit, induced by the unfeeling words of Aunt Katy. After 
this Miss Lucretia was yet more my friend. I felt her to be 
such ; and I have no doubt that the simple act of binding up 
my head did much to awaken in her heart an interest in my 
welfare. It is quite true that this interest seldom showed 
itself in anything more than in giving me a piece of bread 
and butter, but this was a great favor on a slave plantation, 
and I was the only one of the children to whom such atten- 
tion was paid. When very severely pinched with hunger, I 
had the habit of singing, which the good lady very soon came 
to understand, and when she heard me singing under her 
window, I was very apt to be paid for my music. Thus I had 
two friends, both at important points, — Mas'r Daniel at the 
great house, and Miss Lucretia at home. From Mas'r Daniel 
I got protection from the bigger boys, and from Miss Lucre- 
tia I got bread by singing when I was hungry, and sympathy 
when I was abused by the termagant in the kitchen. For such 
friendship I was deeply grateful, and bitter as are my recol- 


lections of slavery, it is a true pleasure to recall any instances 
of kindness, any sunbeams of humane treatment, which found 
way to my soul, through the iron grating of my house of 
bondage. Such beams seem all the brighter from the general 
darkness into which they penetrate, and the impression they 
make there is vividly distinct. 

As before intimated, I received no severe treatment from 
the hands of my master, but the insufficiency of both food 
and clothing was a serious trial to me, especially from the lack 
of clothing. In hottest summer and coldest winter, I was 
kept almost in a state of nudity. My only clothing — a little 
coarse sack-cloth or tow-linen sort of shirt, scarcely reaching 
to my knees, was worn night and day and changed once a 
week. In the day time I could protect myself by keeping on 
the sunny side of the house, or in stormy weather, in the cor- 
ner of the kitchen chimney. But the great difficulty was to 
keep warm during the night. The pigs in the pen had leaves, 
and the horses in the stable had straw, but the children had 
no beds. They lodged anywhere in the ample kitchen. I 
slept generally in a little closet, without even a blanket to 
cover me. In very cold weather I sometimes got down the 
bag in which corn was carried to the mill, and crawled into 
that. Sleeping there with my head in and my feet out, I was 
partly protected, though never comfortable. My feet have 
been so cracked with the frost that the pen with which I am 
writing might be laid in the gashes. Our corn meal mush, 
which was our only regular if not all-sufficing diet, when suffi- 
ciently cooled from the cooking, was placed in a large tray or" 
trough. This was set down either on the floor of the kitchen, 
or out of doors on the ground, and the children were called 
like so many pigs, and like so many pigs would come, some 
with oyster-shells, some with pieces of shingles, but none 
with spoons, and literally devour the mush. He who could 
eat fastest got most, and he that was strongest got the best 
place, but few left the trough really satisfied. I was the most 
unlucky of all, for Aunt Katy had no good feeling for me, and 


if I pushed the children, or if they told her anything unfavor- 
able of me, she always believed the worst, and was sure to 
whip me. 

As I grew older and more thoughtful, I became more and 
more filled with a sense of my wretchedness. The # unkindness 
of Aunt Katy, the hunger and cold I suffered, and the terrible 
reports of wrongs and outrages which came to my ear, together 
with what I almost daily witnessed, led me to wish I had 
never been born. I used to contrast my condition with that of 
the black-birds, in whose wild and sweet songs I fancied them 
so happy. Their apparent joy only deepened the shades of 
my sorrow. There are thoughtful days in the lives of chil- 
dren — at least there were in mine — when they grapple with 
all the great primary subjects of knowledge, and reach in a 
moment conclusions which no subsequent experience can 
shake. I was just as well aware of the unjust, unnatural, and 
murderous character of slavery, when nine years old, as I am 
now. Without any appeal to books, to laws, or to authorities 
of any kind, to regard God as " Our Father," condemned 
slavery as a crime. 

I was in this unhappy state when I received from Miss 
Lucretia the joyful intelligence that my old master had deter- 
mined to let me go to Baltimore to live with Mr. Hugh Auld, 
a brother to Mr. Thomas Auld, Miss Lucretia's husband. I 
shall never forget the ecstacy with which I received this in- 
formation, three days before the time set for my departure. 
They were the three happiest days I had ever known. I spent 
the largest part of them in the creek, washing off the planta- 
tion scurf, and thus preparing for my new home. Miss Lucre- 
tia took a lively interest in getting me ready. She told me I 
must get all the dead skin off my feet and knees, for the peo- 
ple in Baltimore were very cleanly, and would laugh at me if I 
looked dirty ; and besides she was intending to give me a pair 
of trowsers, but which I could not put on unless I got all the 
dirt off. This was a warning which I was bound to heed, for 
the thought of owning and wearing a pair of trowsers was 


great indeed. So I went at it in good earnest, working for 
the first time in my life in the hope of reward. I was greatly 
excited, and could hardly consent to sleep lest I should be left. 
The ties that ordinarily bind children to their homes, had no 
existence in my case, and in thinking of a home elsewhere, I 
was confident of finding none that I should relish less than 
the one I was leaving. If I should meet with hardship, hun- 
ger, and nakedness, I had known them all before, and I could 
endure them elsewhere, especially in Baltimore, for I had 
something of the feeling about that city that is expressed in 
the saying that " being hanged in England is better than dying 
a natural death in Ireland.' , I had the strongest desire to see 
Baltimore. My cousin Tom, a boy two or three years older 
than I, had been there, and, though not fluent in speech (he 
stuttered immoderately), he had inspired me with that desire 
by his eloquent descriptions of the place. Tom was some- 
times cabin-boy on board the sloop "Sally Lloyd" (which 
Capt. Thomas Auld commanded), and when he came home 
from Baltimore he was always a sort of hero among us, at 
least till his trip to Baltimore was forgotten. I could never 
tell him anything, or point out anything that struck me as 
beautiful or powerful, but that he had seen something in Balti- 
more far surpassing it. Even the " great house," with all its 
pictures within, and pillars without, he had the hardihood to 
say, "was nothing to Baltimore." He bought a trumpet 
(worth sixpence) and brought it home ; told what he had seen 
in the windows of the stores ; that he had heard shooting- 
crackers, and seen soldiers ; that he had seen a steamboat ; 
that there were ships in Baltimore that could carry four such 
sloops as the " Sally Lloyd." He said a great deal about the 
Market house ; of the ringing of the bells, and of many other 
things which roused my curiosity very much, and indeed which 
brightened my hopes of happiness in my new home. We sailed 
out of Miles Elver for Baltimore early on a Saturday morning. 
I remember only the day of the week, for at that time I had 
no knowledge of the days of the month, nor indeed of the 


months of the year. On setting sail I walked aft and gave to 
Col. Lloyd's plantation what I hoped would be the last look I 
should give to it, or to any place like it. After taking this last 
view, 1 quitted the quarter-deck, made my way to the bow of 
the boat, and spent the remainder of the day in looking ahead; 
interesting myself in what was in the distance, rather than in 
what was near by, or behind. The vessels sweeping along the 
bay were objects full of interest to me. The broad bay opened 
like a shoreless ocean on my boyish vision, filling me with 
wonder and admiration. 

Late in the afternoon we reached Annapolis, stopping there 
not long enough to admit of going ashore. It was the first 
large town I had ever seen, and though it was inferior to many 
a factory village in New England, my feelings on seeing it 
were excited to a pitch very little below that reached by trav- 
elers at the first view of Rome. The dome of the State house 
was especially imposing, and surpassed in grandeur the appear- 
ance of the " great house " I had left behind. So the great 
world was opening upon me, and I was eagerly acquainting 
myself with its multifarious lessons. 

We arrived in Baltimore on Sunday morning, and landed at 
Smith's wharf, not far from Bowly's wharf. We had on board 
a large flock of sheep, for the Baltimore market ; and after 
assisting in driving them to the slaughter house of Mr. Cur- 
tiss, on Loudon Slater's hill, I was conducted by Rich — one of 
the hands belonging to the sloop— to my new home on Alli- 
ciana street, near Gardiner's ship-yard, on Fell's point. Mr. 
and Mrs. Hugh Auld, my new master and mistress, were both 
at home and met me at the door with their rosy-cheeked little 
son Thomas, to take care, of whom was to constitute my future 
occupation. In fact it was to " little Tommy," rather than to 
his parents, that old master made a present of me, and, though 
there was no legal form or arrangement entered into, I have 
no doubt that Mr. and Mrs. Auld felt that in due time I should 
be the legal property of their bright-eyed and beloved boy 
Tommy. I was struck with the appearance especially of my 


new mistress. Her face was lighted with the kindliest emo- 
tions ; and the reflex influence of her countenance, as well as 
the tenderness with which she seemed to regard me, while 
asking me sundry little questions, greatly delighted me, and 
lit up, to my fancy, the pathway of my future. Little Thomas 
was affectionately told by his mother, that " there was his 
Freddy," and that " Freddy would take care of him ; " and I 
was told to " be kind to little Tommy," an injunction I scarcely 
needed, for I had already fallen in love with the dear boy. 
With these little ceremonies I was initiated into my new home, 
and entered upon my peculiar duties, then unconscious of a 
* cloud to dim its broad horizon. 

I may say here that I regard my removal from Col. Lloyd's 
plantation as one of the most interesting and fortunate events 
of my life. Viewing it in the light of human likelihoods, it 
is quite probable that but for the mere circumstance of being 
thus removed, before the rigors of slavery had fully fastened 
upon me ; before my young spirit had been crushed under the 
iron control of the slave-driver, I might have continued in 
slavery until emancipated by the war. 



City annoyances— Plantation regrets — My mistress — Her history — Her kind- 
ness — My master — His sourness — My comforts — Increased sensitiveness — 
My occupation — Learning to read — Baneful effects of slaveholding on my 
dear, good mistress — Mr. Hugh forbids Mrs. Sophia to teach me further 
— Clouds gather on my bright prospects — Master Auld's exposition of the 
Philosophy of Slavery — City slaves — Country slaves — Contrasts — Excep- 
tions — Mr. Hamilton's two slaves — Mrs. Hamilton's cruel treatment of 
them— Piteous aspect presented by them — No power to come between the 
slave and slaveholder. 

ESTABLISHED in my new home in Baltimore, I was not 
very long in perceiving that in picturing to myself what 
was to be my life there, my imagination had painted only the 
bright side ; and that the reality had its dark shades as well 
as its light ones. The open country which had been so much 
to me, was all shut out. Walled in on every side by towering 
brick buildings, the heat of the summer was intolerable to me, 
and the hard brick pavements almost blistered my feet. If I 
ventured out on to the streets, new and strange objects glared 
upon me at every step, and startling sounds greeted my ears 
from all directions. My country eyes and ears were confused 
and bewildered. Troops of hostile boys pounced upon me at 
every corner. They chased me, and called me " Eastern-Shore 
man," till really I almost wished myself back on the Eastern 
Shore. My new mistress happily proved to be all she had 
seemed, and in her presence I easily forgot all outside annoy- 
ances. Mrs. Sophia was naturally of an excellent disposition 
— kind, gentle, and cheerful. The supercilious contempt for 
the rights and feelings of others, and the petulence and bad 
humor which generally characterized slaveholding ladies, were 
all quite absent from her manner and bearing toward me. 



She had never been a slaveholder — a thing then quite unusual at 
the South — but had depended almost entirely upon her own 
industry for a living. To this fact the dear lady no doubt 
owed the excellent preservation of her natural goodness of 
heart, for slavery could change a saint into a sinner, and an 
angel into a demon. I hardly knew how to behave towards 
" Miss Sopha," as I used to call Mrs. Hugh Auld. I could not 
approach her even as I had formerly approached Mrs. Thomas 
Auld. Why should I hang down my head, and speak with 
bated breath, when there was no pride to scorn me, no cold- 
ness to repel me, and no hatred to inspire me with fear ? I 
therefore soon came to regard her as something more akin 
to a mother than a slaveholding mistress. So far from deem- 
ing it impudent in a slave to look her straight in the face, she 
seemed ever to say, " look up, child ; don't be afraid." The 
sailors belonging to the sloop esteemed it a great privilege to 
be the bearers of parcels or messages to her, for whenever 
they came, they were sure of a most kind and pleasant recep- 
tion. If little Thomas was her son, and her most dearly loved 
child, she made me something like his half-brother in her 
affections. If dear Tommy was exalted to a place on his 
mother's knee, " Feddy " was honored by a place at the mother's 
side. Nor did the slave-boy lack the caressing strokes of her 
gentle hand, soothing him into the consciousness that, though 
motherless, he was not friendless. Mrs. Auld was not only kind- 
hearted, but remarkably pious ; frequent in her attendance of 
public worship, much given to reading the Bible, and to chant- 
ing hymns of praise when alone. Mr. Hugh was altogether 
a different character. He cared very little about religion ; 
knew more of the world and was more a part of the world, 
than his wife. He set out doubtless to be, as the world goes, 
a respectable man, and to get on by becoming a successful 
ship-builder, in that city of ship-building. This was his ambi- 
tion, and it fully occupied him. I was of course of very little 
consequence to him, and when he smiled upon me, as he 
sometimes did, the smile was borrowed from his lovely wife, 


and like all borrowed light, was transient, and vanished with 
the source whence it was derived. Though I must in truth 
characterize Master Hugh as a sour man of forbidding appear- 
ance, it is due to liim to acknowledge that he was never cruel 
to me, according to the notion of cruelty in Maryland. Dur- 
ing the first year or two, he left me almost exclusively to the 
management of his wife. She was my law-giver. In hands 
so tender as hers, and in the absence of the cruelties of the 
plantation, 1 became both physically and mentally much more 
sensitive, and a frown from my mistress caused me far more 
suffering than had Aunt Katy's hardest cuffs. Instead of the 
cold, damp floor of my old master's kitchen, I was on carpets; 
for the corn bag in winter, I had a good straw bed, well fur- 
nished with covers ; for the coarse corn meal in the morning, 
I had good bread and mush occasionally; for my old tow-linen 
shirt, 1 had good clean clothes. I was really well off. My 
employment was to run of errands, and to take care of 
Tommy ; to prevent his getting in the way of carriages, and 
to keep him out of harm's way generally. So for a time every 
thing went well. I say for a time, because the fatal poison of 
irresponsible power, and the natural influence of slave cus- 
toms, were not very long in making their impression on the 
gentle and loving disposition of my excellent mistress. She 
regarded me at first as a child, like any other. This was the 
natural and spontaneous thought; afterwards, when she came 
to consider me as property, our relations to each other were 
changed, but a nature so noble as hers could not instantly 
become perverted, and it took several years before the sweet- 
ness of her temper was wholly lost. 

The frequent hearing of my mistress reading the Bible 
aloud, for she often read aloud when her husband was absent, 
awakened my curiosity in respect to this mystery of reading, 
and roused in me the desire to learn. Up to this time I had 
known nothing whatever of this wonderful art, and my igno- 
rance and inexperience of what it could do for me, as well as 
my confidence in my mistress, emboldened me to ask her to 


teach me to read. With an unconsciousness and inexperience 
equal to my own, she readily consented, and in an incredibly 
short time, by her kind assistance, I had mastered the alpha- 
bet and could spell words of three or four letters. My mis- 
tress seemed almost as proud of my progress as if I had been 
her own child, and supposing that her husband would be as 
well pleased, she made no secret of what she was doing for 
me. Indeed, she exultingly told him of the aptness of her 
pupil, and of her intention to persevere in teaching me, as 
she felt her duty to do, at least to read the Bible. And here 
arose the first dark cloud over my Baltimore prospects, the 
precursor of chilling blasts and drenching storms. Master 
Hugh was astounded beyond measure, and probably for the 
first time proceeded to unfold to his wife the true philosophy 
of the slave system, and the peculiar rules necessary in the 
nature of the case to be observed in the management of 
human chattels. Of course he forbade her to give me any 
further instruction, telling her in the first place that to do so 
was unlawful, as it was also unsafe ; " for," said he, " if you 
give a nigger an inch he will take an ell. Learning will spoil 
the best nigger in the world. If he learns to read the Bible 
it will forever unfit him to be a slave. He should know noth- 
ing but the will of his master, and learn to obey it. As to 
himself, learning will do him no good, but a great deal of 
harm, making him disconsolate and 'unhappy. If you teach 
him how to read, he'll want to know how to write, and this 
accomplished, he'll be running away with himself." Such 
was the tenor of Master Hugh's oracular exposition ; and it 
must be confessed that he very clearly comprehended the 
nature and the requirements of the relation of master and 
slave. His discourse was the first decidedly anti-slavery lec- 
ture to which it had been my lot to listen. Mrs. Auld evi- 
dently felt the force of what he said, and like an obedient 
wife, began to shape her course in the direction indicated by 
him. The effect of his words on me was neither slight nor 
transitory. His iron sentences, cold and harsh, sunk like 

Mrs. Auld Learning Him to Read. 


heavy weights deep into my heart, and stirred up within me 
a rebellion not soon to be allayed. This was a new and 
special revelation, dispelling a painful mystery against which 
my youthful understanding had struggled, and struggled in 
vain, to wit, the white man's power to perpetuate the enslave- 
ment of the black man. " Very well," thought I. " Knowl- 
edge unfits a child to be a slave." I instinctively assented to 
the proposition, and from that moment I understood the 
direct pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just what I 
needed, and it came to me at a time and from a source whence 
I least expected it. Of course I was greatly saddened at the 
thought of losing the assistance of my kind mistress, but the 
information so instantly derived to some extent compensated 
me for the loss I had sustained in this direction. Wise as 
Mr. Auld was, he underrated my comprehension, and had 
little idea of the use to which I was capable of putting the 
impressive lesson he was giving to his wife. He wanted me 
to be a slave ; I had already voted against that on the home 
plantation of Col. Lloyd. That which he most loved I most 
hated; and the very determination which he expressed to 
keep me in ignorance only rendered me the more resolute to 
seek intelligence. In learning to read, therefore, I am not 
sure that I do not owe quite as much to the opposition of my 
master as to the kindly assistance of my amiable mistress. 
I acknowledge the benefit rendered me by the one, and by 
the other, believing that but for my mistress I might have 
grown up in ignorance. 



My mistress — Her slaveholding duties — Their effects on her originally noble 
nature — The conflict in her mind — She opposes my learning to read — Too 
late — She had given me the "inch," I was resolved to take the "ell" — 
How I pursued my study to read — My tutors — What progress I made — 
Shivery — What I heard said about it — Thirteen years old — Columbian 
orator — Dialogue — Speeches — Sheridan — Pitt — Lords Chatham and Fox — 
Knowledge increasing — Liberty — Singing — Sadness — Unhappiness of Mrs. 
Sophia — My hatred of slavery — One Upas tree overshadows us all. 

I LIVED in the family of Mr. Auld, at Baltimore, seven 
years, during which time, as the almanac makers say of 
the weather, my condition was variable. The most interest- 
ing feature of my history here, was my learning to read and 
write under somewhat marked disadvantages. In attaining 
this knowledge I was compelled to resort to indirections by 
no means congenial to my nature, and which were really 
humiliating to my sense of candor and uprightness. My 
mistress, checked in her benevolent designs toward me, not 
only ceased instructing me herself, but set her face as a flint 
against my learning to read by any means. It is due to her 
to say, however, that she did not adopt this course in all its 
stringency at first. She either thought it unnecessary, or she 
lacked the depravity needed to make herself forget at once 
my human nature. She was, as I have said, naturally a kind 
and tender-hearted woman, and in the humanity of her heart 
and the simplicity of her mind, she set out, when I first went 
to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being 
ought to treat another. 

Nature never intended that men and women should be either 
slaves or slaveholders, and nothing but rigid training long 
persisted in, can perfect the character of the one or the other. 



Mrs. Auld was singularly deficient in the qualities of a slave- 
holder. It was no easy matter for her to think or to feel that 
the curly-headed boy, who stood by her side, and even leaned 
on her lap, who was loved by little Tommy, and who loved lit- 
tle Tommy in turn, sustained to her only the relation of 
a chattel. I was more than that ; she felt me to be more than 
that. I could talk and sing; I could laugh and weep; I could 
reason and remember ; I could love and hate. I was human, and 
she, dear lady, knew and felt me to be so. How could she then 
treat me as a brute without a mighty struggle with all the 
noblest powers of her soul. That struggle came, and the will and 
power of the husband was victorious. Her noble soul was over- 
come, and he who wrought the wrong was injured in the fall no 
less than the rest of the household. When I went into that 
household, it was the abode of happiness and contentment. 
The wife and mistress there was a model of affection and 
tenderness. Her fervent piety and watchful uprightness made 
it impossible to see her without thinking and feeling " that 
woman is a Christian." There was no sorrow nor suffering 
for which she had not a tear, and there was no innocent joy 
for which she had not a smile. She had bread for the hungry, 
clothes for the naked, and comfort for every mourner who came 
within her reach. But slavery soon proved its ability to divest 
her of these excellent qualities, and her home of its early 
happiness. Conscience cannot stand much violence. Once 
thoroughly injured, who is he who can repair the damage ? If 
it be broken toward the slave on Sunday, it will be toward the 
master on Monday. It cannot long endure such shocks. It 
must stand unharmed, or it does not stand at all. As my con- 
dition in the family waxed bad, that of the family waxed no 
better. The first step in the wrong direction was the violence 
done to nature and to conscience, in arresting the benevolence 
that would have enlightened my young mind. In ceasing to 
instruct me, my mistress had to seek to justify herself to her- 
self, and once consenting to take sides in such a debate, she 
was compelled to hold her position. One needs little knowl- 


edge of moral philosophy to see where she inevitably landed. 
She filially became even more violent in her opposition to my 
learning to read than was Mr. Auld himself. Nothing now 
appeared to make her more angry than seeing me, seated in 
some nook or corner, quietly reading a book or newspaper. 
She would rush at me with the utmost fury, and snatch the 
book or paper from my hand, with something of the wrath 
and consternation which a traitor might be supposed to feel 
on being discovered in a plot by some dangerous spy. The 
conviction once thoroughly established in her mind, that edu- 
cation and slavery were incompatible with each other, I was 
most narrowly watched in all my movements. If I remained 
in a separate room from the family for any considerable length 
of time, I was sure to be suspected of having a book, and was 
at once called to give an account of myself. But this was 
too late: the first and never-to-be-retraced step had been 
taken. Teaching me the alphabet had been the " inch " given, 
I was now waiting only for the opportunity to " take the ell." 
Filled with the determination to learn to read at any cost, I 
hit upon many expedients to accomplish that much desired 
end. The plan which I mainly adopted, and the one which 
was the most successful, was that of using my young white 
playmates, with whom I met on the streets, as teachers. I used 
to carry almost constantly a copy of Webster's spelling-book 
in my pocket, and when sent of errands, or when play-time 
was allowed me, I would step aside with my young friends and 
take a lesson in spelling. I am greatly indebted to these 
boys — Gustavus Dorgan, Joseph Bailey, Charles Farity, and 
William Cosdry. 

Although slavery was a delicate subject, and very cautiously 
talked about among grown up people in Maryland, I frequently 
talked about it, and that very freely, with the white boys. I 
would sometimes say to them, while seated on a curbstone or 
a cellar door, " I wish I could be free, as you will be when you 
get to be men." " You will be free, you know, as soon as you 
are twenty-one, and can go where you like, but I am a slave 


for life. Have I not as good a right to be free as you have ? " 
Words like these, 1 observed, always troubled them ; and I 
had no small satisfaction in drawing out from them, as I 
occasionally did, that fresh and bitter condemnation of slavery 
which ever springs from nature unseared and unperverted. 
Of all conscience, let me have those to deal with, which have 
not been seared and bewildered with the cares and perplexities 
of life. I do not remember ever to have met with a boy while 
I was in slavery, who defended the system, but I do remem- 
ber many times, when I was consoled by them, and by them 
encouraged to hope that something would yet occur by 
which I would be made free. Over and over again, they have 
told me that " they believed I had as good a right to be free 
as they had," and that " they did not believe God ever made 
any one to be a slave." It is easily seen that such little con- 
versations with my play-fellows had no tendency to weaken 
my love of liberty, nor to render me contented as a slave. 

When I was about thirteen years old, and had succeeded in 
learning to read, every increase of knowledge, especially any- 
thing respecting the free states, was an additional weight to 
the almost intolerable burden of my thought — " I am a slave 
for life." To my bondage I could see no end. It was a ter- 
rible reality, and I shall never be able to tell how sadly that 
thought chafed my young spirit. Fortunately, or unfortu- 
nately, I had earned a little money in blacking boots for some 
gentlemen, with which I purchased of Mr. Knight, on Thames 
street, what was then a very popular school book, viz., " The 
Columbian Orator," for which I paid fifty cents. I was led 
to buy this book by hearing some little boys say they were 
going to learn some pieces out of it for the exhibition. This 
volume was indeed a rich treasure, and every opportunity 
afforded me, for a time, was spent in diligently perusing it. 
Among much other interesting matter, that which I read 
again and again with unflagging satisfaction was a short 
dialogue between a master and his slave. The slave is rep- 
resented as having been recaptured in a second attempt to 


run away ; and the master opens the dialogue with an upbraid- 
ing speech, charging the slave with ingratitude, and demand- 
ing to know what he has to say in his own defense. Thus 
upbraided and thus called upon to reply, the slave rejoins 
that he knows how little anything that he can say will avail, 
seeing that he is completely in the hands of his owner ; and 
with noble resolution, calmly says, " I submit to my fate." 
Touched by the slave's answer, the master insists upon his 
further speaking, and recapitulates the many acts of kindness 
which he has performed toward the slave, and tells him he is 
permitted to speak for himself. Thus invited, the quondam 
slave made a spirited defense of himself, and thereafter the 
whole argument for and against slavery is brought out. The 
master was vanquished at every turn in the argument, and 
appreciating the fact he generously and meekly emancipates 
the slave, with his best wishes for his prosperity. It is un- 
necessary to say that a dialogue with such an origin and such 
an end, read by me when every nerve of my being was in 
revolt at my own condition as a slave, affected me most power- 
fully. I could not help feeling that the day might yet come, 
when the well-directed answers made by the slave to the mas- 
ter, in this instance, would find a counterpart in my own 
experience. This, however, was not all the fanaticism which 
I found in the Columbian Orator. I met there one of Sheri- 
dan's mighty speeches, on the subject of Catholic Emancipa- 
tion, Lord Chatham's speech on the American War, and 
speeches by the great William Pitt, and by Fox. These 
were all choice documents to me, and I read them over and 
over again, with an interest ever increasing, because it was 
ever gaining in intelligence ; for the more I read them the 
better I understood them. The reading of these speeches 
added much to my limited stock of language, and enabled me 
to give tongue to many interesting thoughts which had often 
flashed through my mind and died away for want of words in 
which to give them utterance. The mighty power and heart- 
searching directness of truth penetrating the heart of a slave- 

master's predictions verified. 97 

holder, compelling him to yield up his earthly interests to the 
claims of eternal justice, were finely illustrated in the dia- 
logue, and from the speeches of Sheridan I got a bold and 
powerful denunciation of oppression and a most brilliant vin- 
dication of the rights of man. Here was indeed a noble 
acquisition. If I had ever wavered under the consideration 
that the Almighty, in some way, had ordained slavery and 
willed my enslavement for his own glory, I wavered no longer. 
I had now penetrated to the secret of all slavery and all op- 
pression, and had ascertained their true foundation to be in 
the pride, the power, and the avarice of man. With a book 
in my hand so redolent of the principles of liberty, with a 
perception of my own human nature and the facts of my past 
and present experience, I was equal to a contest with the 
religious advocates of slavery, whether white or black, for 
blindness in this matter was not confined to the white people. 
I have met many good religious colored people at the south, 
who were under the delusion that God required them to sub- 
mit to slavery and to wear their chains with meekness and 
humility. I could entertain no such nonsense as this, and I 
quite lost my patience when I found a colored man weak 
enough to believe such stuff. Nevertheless, eager as I was to 
partake of the tree of knowledge, its fruits were bitter as 
well as sweet. " Slaveholders," thought I, " are only a band 
of successful robbers, who, leaving their own homes, went 
into Africa for the purpose of stealing and reducing my people 
to slavery." I loathed them as the meanest and the most 
wicked of men. And as I read, behold ! the very discontent 
so graphically predicted by Master Hugh had already come 
upon me. I was no longer the light-hearted, gleesome boy, 
full of mirth and play, as when I landed in Baltimore. Light 
had penetrated the moral dungeon where I had lain, and I 
saw the bloody whip for my back, and the iron chain for my 
feet, and my good kind master, he was the author of my situ 
ation. The revelation haunted me, stung me, and made me 
gloomy and miserable. As I writhed under the sting and tor- 


ment of this knowledge I almost envied my fellow slaves their 
stupid indifference. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, and 
revealed the teeth of the frightful dragon that was ready to 
pounce upon me ; but alas, it opened no way for my escape. I 
wished myself a beast, a bird, anything rather than a slave. I 
was wretched and gloomy beyond my ability to describe. This 
everlasting thinking distressed and tormented me ; and yet 
there was no getting rid of this subject of my thoughts. Lib- 
erty, as the inestimable birthright of every man, converted 
every object into an asserter of this right. I heard it in every 
sound, and saw it in every object. It was ever present to 
torment me with a sense of my wretchedness. The more 
beautiful and charming were the smiles of nature, the more 
horrible and desolate was my condition. I saw nothing with- 
out seeing it, and I heard nothing without hearing it. I do 
not exaggerate when I say it looked at me in every star, it 
smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in 
every storm. I have no doubt that my state of mind had 
something to do with the change in treatment which my mis- 
tress adopted towards me. I can easily believe that my 
leaden, downcast, and disconsolate look was very offensive to 
her. Poor lady! She did not understand my trouble, and I 
could not tell her. Could I have made her acquainted with 
the real state of my mind and given her the reasons therefor, 
it might have been well for both of us. As it was, her abuse 
fell upon me like the blows of the false prophet upon his ass ; 
she did not know that an angel stood in the way. Nature 
made us friends, but slavery had made us enemies. My inter- 
ests were in a direction opposite to hers, and we both had our 
private thoughts and plans. She aimed to keep me ignorant, 
and I resolved to know, although knowledge only increased 
my misery. My feelings were not the result of any marked 
cruelty in the treatment I received ; they sprung from the 
consideration of my being a slave at all. It was slavery, not 
its mere incidents I hated. I had been cheated. I saw 
through the attempt to keep me in ignorance. I law that 


slaveholders would have gladly made me helieve that they 
were merely acting under the authority of God in making a 
slave of me and in making slaves of others, and I felt to 
them as to robbers and deceivers. The feeding and clothing 
me well could not atone for taking my liberty from me. The 
smiles of my mistress could not remove the deep sorrow that 
dwelt in my young bosom. Indeed, these came in time but 
to deepen my sorrow. She had changed, and the reader will 
see that I had changed too. We were both victims to the 
same overshadowing evil, she as mistress, I as slave. I 
will not censure her harshly. 



Abolitionists spoken of — Eagerness to know the meaning of word — Con- 
sults the dictionary — Incendiary information — The enigma solved — "Nat 
Turner " insurrection — Cholera — Religion — Methodist minister — Religious 
impressions — Father Lawson — His character and occupation — His influ- 
ence over me — Our mutual attachment — New hopes and aspirations — 
Heavenly light — Two Irishmen on wharf — Conversation with them— 
Learning to write — My aims. 

IN the unhappy state of mind described in the foregoing 
chapter, regretting my very existence because doomed 
to a life of bondage, so goaded and so wretched as to be 
even tempted at times to take my own life, I was most 
keenly sensitive to know any and everything possible that had 
any relation to the subject of slavery. I was all ears, all 
eyes, whenever the words slave or slavery dropped from the 
lips of any white person, and the occasions became more and 
more frequent when these words became leading ones in high, 
social debate at our house. Yery often I would overhear 
Master Hugh, or some of his company, speak with much 
warmth of the " abolitionists" Who or what the abolitionists 
were, I was totally ignorant. I found, however, that whoever 
or whatever they might be, they were most cordially hated 
and abused by slaveholders of every grade. I very soon dis- 
covered too, that slavery was, in some sort, under considera- 
tion whenever the abolitionists were alluded to. This made 
the term a very interesting one to me. If a slave had made 
good his escape from slavery, it was generally alleged that he 
had been persuaded and assisted to do so by the abolitionists. 
If a slave killed his master, or struck down his overseer, or 
set fire to his master's dwelling, or committed any violence or 
crime, out of the common way, it was certain to be said that 



such a crime was the legitimate fruits of the abolition move- 
ment. Hearing such charges often repeated, I, naturally 
enough, received the impression that abolition — whatever 
else it might be — was not unfriendly to the slave, nor very 
friendly to the slaveholder. I therefore set about finding out, 
if possible, who and what the abolitionists were, and why they 
were so obnoxious to the slaveholders. The dictionary offered 
me very little help. It taught me that abolition was "the act 
of abolishing ; " but it left me in ignorance at the very paint 
where I most wanted information, and that was, as to the 
thing to be abolished. A city newspaper — the " Baltimore 
American" — gave me the incendiary information denied me by 
the dictionary. In its columns I found that on a certain day 
a vast number of petitions and memorials had been presented 
to Congress, praying for the abolition of slavery in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, and for the abolition of the slave trade 
between the States of the Union. This was enough. The 
vindictive bitterness, the marked caution, the studied reserve, 
and the ambiguity practiced by our white folks when alluding 
to this subject, was now fully explained. Ever after that, 
when I heard the word abolition, I felt the matter one of a 
personal concern, and I drew near to listen whenever I could 
do so, without seeming too solicitous and prying. There was 
HOPE in those words. Ever and anon too, I could see some 
terrible denunciation of slavery in our papers, — copied from 
abolition papers at the North, — and the injustice of such 
denunciation commented on. These I read with avidity. I 
had a deep satisfaction in the thought that the rascality of 
slaveholders was not concealed from the eyes of the world, 
and that I was not alone in abhorring the cruelty and brutality 
of slavery. A still deeper train of thought was stirred. I 
saw that there was fear as well as rage in the manner of 
speaking of the abolitionists, and from this I inferred that 
they must have some power in the country, and I felt that they 
might perhaps succeed in their designs. When I met with a 
slave to whom I deemed it safe to talk on the subject, I would 


impart to him so much of the mystery as I had heen ahle to 
penetrate. Thus the light of this grand movement broke in 
upon my mind by degrees ; and I must say that ignorant as I 
was of the philosophy of that movement, I believed in it from 
the first, and I believed in it, partly, because I saw that it 
alarmed the consciences of the slaveholders. The insurrec- 
tion of Nat. Turner had been quelled, but the alarm and ter- 
ror which it occasioned had not subsided. The cholera was 
then on its way to this country, and I remember thinking that 
God was angry with the white people because of their slave- 
holding wickedness, and therefore his judgments were abroad 
in the land. Of course it was impossible for me not to hope 
much for the abolition movement when I saw it supported by 
the Almighty, and armed with Death. 

Previously to my contemplation of the anti-slavery move- 
ment and its probable results, my mind had been seriously 
awakened to the subject of religion. I was not more than 
.thirteen years old, w hen in my loneliness and destitution I 
longed for some one to whom I could go, as to a father and 
protector. The preaching of a white Methodist minister, 
named Hanson, was the means of causing me to feel that in 
God I had such a friend. He thought that all men, great and 
small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God : that 
they were by nature rebels against his government ; and that 
they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God 
through Christ. I cannot say that I had a very distinct notion 
of what was required of me, but one thing I did know well : 
I was wretched and had no means of making myself other- 
wise. I consulted a good colored man named Charles Law- 
son, and in tones of holy affection he told me to pray, and to 
" cast all my care upon God." This I sought to do ; and 
though for weeks I was a poor, broken-hearted mourner, trav- 
eling through doubts and fears, I finally found my burden 
lightened, and my heart relieved. I loved all mankind, slave- 
holders not excepted^, though I abhorred slavery more than 
ever. I saw the world in a new light, and my great concern 


was to have everybody converted. My desire to learn in- 
creased, and especially did I want a thorough acquaintance 
with the contents of the Bible. I have gathered scattered 
pages of the Bible from the filthy street-gutters, and washed 
and dried them, that in moments of leisure I* might get a 
word or two of wisdom from them. While thus religiously 
seeking knowledge, I became acquainted with a good old col- 
ored man named Lawson. This man not only prayed three 
times a day, but he prayed as he walked through the streets, 
at his work, on his dray — everywhere. His life was a life of 
prayer, and his words when he spoke to any one, were about a 
better world. Uncle Lawson lived near Master Hugh's house, 
and becoming deeply attached to him, I went often with him 
to prayer-meeting, and spent much of my leisure time with 
him on Sunday. The old man could read a little, and I was a 
great help to him in making out the hard words, for I was a 
better reader than he. I could teach him " the letter," but he 
could teach me " the spirit," and refreshing times we had 
together, in singing and praying. These meetings went on 
for a long time without the knowledge of faster Hugh or my 
mistress. Both knew, however, that I hadrbecome religious, 
and seemed to respect my conscientious piety. My mistress 
was still a professor of religion, and belonged to class. Her 
leader was no less a person than Rev. Beverly Waugh, the 
presiding elder, and afterwards one of the bishops of the 
Methodist Episcopal church. 

In view of the cares and anxieties incident to the life she 
was leading, and especially in view of the separation from 
religious associations to which she was subjected, my mistress 
had, as I have before stated, become lukewarm, and needed 
to be looked up by her leader. This often brought Mr. Waugh 
to our house, and gave me an opportunity to hear him exhort 
and pray. But my chief instructor in religious matters was 
Uncle Lawson. He was my spiritual father and I loved him 
intensely, and was at his house every chance I could get. 
This pleasure, however, was not long unquestioned. Master 


Hugh became averse to our intimacy, and threatened to whip 
me if I ever went there again. I now felt myself persecuted 
by a wicked man, and I would go. The good old man had 
told me that the " Lord had a great work for me to do," and 
I must prepare to do it ; that he had be on shown that I must 
preach the gospel. His words made a very deep impression 
upon me, and I verily felt that some such work was before 
me, though I could not see how I could ever engage in its 
performance. " The good Lord would bring it to pass in his 
own good time," he said, and that I must go on reading and 
studying the scriptures. This advice and these suggestions 
were not without their influence on my character and destiny. 
He fanned my already intense love of knowledge into a flame 
by assuring me that I was to be a useful man in the world. 
When I would say to him, "How can these things be? and 
what can I do?" his simple reply was, " Trust in the Lord. 
When I would tell him, "I am a slave, and a slave for life, 
how can I do anything?" he would quietly answer, "The 
Lord can make you free, my dear ; all things are pos^^e 
with Him; only J^ave faith in God. 'Ask, and it shall be 
given you.' ' H you want liberty, ask the Lord for it in faith, 
and he will give it to you" 

Thus assured and thus cheered on under the inspiration of 
hope, I worked and prayed with a light heart, believing that 
my life was under the guidance of a wisdom higher than my 
own. With all other blessings sought at the mercy seat, I 
always prayed that God would, of his great mercy and in his 
own good time, deliver me from my bondage. 

I went, one day, on the wharf of Mr. Waters, and seeing 
two Irishmen unloading a. scow of stone or ballast, I went on 
board unasked, and helped them. When we had finished the 
work one of the men came to me, aside, and asked me a 
number of questions, and among them if I were a slave ? I 
told him " I was a slave for life." The good Irishman gave a 
shrug, and seemed deeply affected. He said it was a pity so 
fine a little fellow as I was should be a slave for life. They 
both had much to say about the matter, and expressed the 


deepest sympathy with me, and the most decided hatred of 
slavery. They went so far as to tell me that I ought to run 
away and go to the north ; that I should find friends there, 
and that I should then be as free as anybody. I pretended 
not to be interested in what they said, for I feared they might 
be treacherous. White men were not unfrequently known to 
encourage slaves to escape, and then, to get the reward, they 
would kidnap them and return them to their masters. While 
I mainly inclined to the notion that these men were honest 
and meant me no ill, I feared it might be otherwise. I never- 
theless remembered their words and their advice, and looked 
forward to an escape to the north as a possible means of 
gaining the liberty for which my heart panted. It was not 
my enslavement at the then present time which most affected 
me ; the being a slave for life was the saddest thought. I 
was too young to think of running away immediately ; besides, 
I wished to learn to write before going, as I might have occa- 
sion to write my own pass. I now not only had the hope of 
freedom, but a foreshadowing of the means by which I might 
some day gain that inestimable boon. Meanwhile I resolved 
to add to my educational attainments the art of writing. 

After this manner I began to learn to write. I was much 
in the ship-yard — Master Hugh's, and that of Durgan & 
Bailey, and I observed that the carpenters, after hewing and 
getting ready a piece of timber to use, wrote on it the initials 
of the name of that part of the ship for which it was intended. 
When, for instance, a piece of timber was ready for the star- 
board side, it was marked with a capital "S." A piece for 
the larboard side was marked " L. ; " larboard forward was 
marked "L. F.;" larboard aft was marked "L. A.;" star- 
board aft, "S. A.;" and starboard forward "S. F." I soon 
learned these letters, and for what they were placed on the 

My work now was to keep fire under the steam-box, and to 
watch the ship-yard while the carpenters had gene to dinner. 
This interval gave me a fine opportunity for copying the let- 
ters named. I soon astonished myself with the ease with 


which I made the letters, and the thought was soon present, 
"If I can make four letters I can make more." Having 
made these readily and easily, when I met boys about the 
Bethe) church or on any of our play-grounds, I entered the lists 
with them in the art of writing, and would make the letters 
which I had been so fortunate as to learn, and ask them to 
"beat that if they could." With play-mates for my teachers, 
fences and pavements for my copy-books, and chalk for my 
pen and ink, I learned to write. I however adopted, after- 
ward, various methods for improving my hand. The most 
successful was copying the italics in Webster's spelling-book 
until I could make them all without looking on the book. 
By this time my little "Master Tommy" had grown to be a 
big boy, and had written over a number of copy-books and 
brought them home. They had been shown to the neighbors, 
had elicited due praise, and had been laid carefully away. 
Spending parts of my time both at the ship-yard and the 
house, I was often the lone keeper of the latter as of the 
former. When my mistress left me in charge of the house I 
had a grand time. I got Master Tommy's copy-books and a 
pen and ink, and in the ample spaces between the lines I 
wrote other lines as nearly like his as possible. The process 
was a tedious one, and I ran the risk of getting a flogging 
for marking the highly-prized copy-books of the oldest son. 
In addition to these opportunities, sleeping as I did in the 
kitchen loft, a room seldom visited by any of the family, I 
contrived to get a flour-barrel up there and a chair, and upon 
the head of that barrel I have written, or endeavored to write, 
copying from the Bible and the Methodist hymn-book, and 
other books which I had accumulated, till late at night, and 
when all the family were in bed and asleep. I was supported 
in my endeavors by renewed advice and by holy promises 
from the good father Lawson, with whom I continued to meet 
and pray and read the Scriptures. Although Master Hugh 
was aware of these meetings, I must say for his credit that 
he never executed his threats to whip me for having thus 
innocently employed my leisure time. 



Death of old Master's son Richard, speedily followed by that of old Mas- 
ter — Valuation and division of all the property, including the slaves — 
Sent for to come to Hillsborough to be valued and divided — Sad prospects 
and grief — Parting — Slaves have no voice in deciding their own destinies 
— General dread of falling into Master Andrew's hands — His drunken- 
ness — Good fortune in falling to Miss Lucretia — She allows my return to 
Baltimore — Joy at Master Hugh's — Death of Miss Lucretia — Master 
Thomas Auld's second marriage — The new wife unlike the old — Again 
removed from Master Hugh's — Reasons for regret — Plan of escape. 

I MUST now ask the reader to go back with me a little in 
point of time, in my humble story, and notice another 
circumstance that entered into my slavery experience, and 
which, doubtless, has had a share in deepening my horror of 
slavery, and my hostility toward those men and measures that 
practically uphold the slave system. 

It has already been observed that though I was, after my 
removal from Col. Lloyd's plantation, in form the slave of 
Master Hugh Auld, I was in fact and in law the slave of my 
old master, Capt. Anthony. Very well. In a very short 
time after I went to Baltimore my old master's youngest son, 
Richard, died ; and in three years and six months after my 
old master himself died, leaving only his daughter Lucretfa 
and his son Andrew to share the estate. The old man died 
while on a visit to his daughter in Hillsborough, where Capt. 
Auld and Mrs. Lucretia now lived, Master Thomas having 
given up the command of Col. Lloyd's sloop and was now 
keeping store in that town. 

Cut off thus unexpectedly, Capt. Anthony died intestate, 
and his property must be equally divided between his two 
children, Andrew and Lucretia. 



The valuation and division of slaves among contending 
heirs was a most important incident in slave life. The char- 
acters and tendencies of the heirs were generally well under- 
stood by the slaves who were to be divided, and all had their 
aversions and their preferences. But neither their aversions 
nor their preferences availed anything. 

On the death of old master I was immediately sent for to 
be valued and divided with the other property. Personally, 
my concern was mainly about my possible removal from the 
home of Master Hugh, for up to this time there had no dark 
clouds arisen to darken the sky of that happy abode. It was 
a sad day to me when I left for the Eastern Shore, to be 
valued and divided, as it was for my dear mistress and teacher, 
and for little Tommy. We all three wept bitterly, for we were 
parting, and it might be we were parting forever. No one 
could tell amongst which pile of chattels I might be flung. 
Thus early, I got a foretaste of that painful uncertainty which 
in one form or another was ever obtruding itself in the path- 
way of the slave. It furnished me a new insight into the 
unnatural power to which I was subjected. Sickness, adver- 
sity, and death may interfere with the plans and purposes of 
all, but the slave had the added danger of changing homes, in 
the separations unknown to other men. Then too, there was 
the intensified degradation of the spectacle. What an assem- 
blage ! Men and women, young and old, married and single ; 
moral and thinking human beings, in open contempt of their 
humanity, leveled at a blow with horses, sheep, horned cattle, 
and swine. Horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and 
children — all holding the same rank in the scale of social 
existence, and all subjected to the same narrow inspection, to 
ascertain their value in gold and silver — the only standard of 
worth applied by slaveholders to their slaves. Personality 
swallowed up in the sordid idea of property ! Manhood lost 
in chattelhood ! 

The valuation over, then came the division and apportion- 
ment. Our destiny was to be fixed for life, and we had no 


more voice in the decision of the question than the oxen and 
cows that stood chewing at the hay-mow. One word of the 
appraisers, against all preferences and prayers, could sunder 
all the ties of friendship and affection, even to separating hus- 
bands and wives, parents and children. We were all appalled 
before that power which, to human seeming, could bless or blast 
us in a moment. Added to this dread of separation, most 
painful to the majority of the slaves, we all had a decided hor- 
ror of falling into the hands of Master Andrew, who was dis- 
tinguished for his cruelty and intemperance. 

Slaves had a great dread, very naturally, of falling into the 
hands of drunken owners. Master Andrew was a confirmed 
sot, and had already by his profligate dissipation wasted a 
large portion of his father's property. To fall into his hands, 
therefore, was considered as the first step toward being sold 
away to the far South. He would no doubt spend his fortune 
in a few years, it was thought, and his farms and slaves would 
be sold at public auction, and the slaves hurried away to the 
cotton-fields and rice-swamps of the burning South. This 
was cause of deep consternation. 

The people of the North, and free people generally, I think, 
have less attachment to the places where' they are born and 
brought up, than had the slaves. Their freedom to come and 
go, to be here or there, as they list, prevents any extravagant 
attachment to any one particular place. On the other hand, 
the slave was a fixture ; he had no choice, no goal, but was 
pegged down to one single spot, and must take root there or 
nowhere. The idea of removal elsewhere came generally in 
shape of a threat , and in punishment for crime. It was there- 
fore attended with fear and dread. The enthusiasm which 
animates the bosoms of young freemen, when they contem- 
plate a life in the far West, or in some distant country, where 
they expect to rise to wealth and distinction, could have no 
place in the thought of the slave ; nor could those from whom 
they separated know anything of that cheerfulness with which 
friends and relations yield each other up, when they feel that 


it is for the good of the departing one that he is removed from 
his native place. Then, too, tkere is correspondence and the 
hope of reunion, but with the slaves all these mitigating cir- 
cumstances were wanting. There was no improvement in 
condition probable — no correspondence possible — no reunion 
attainable. His going out into the world was like a living 
man going into the tomb, who with open eyes, sees himself 
buried out of sight and hearing of wife, children, and friends 
of kindred tie. 

In contemplating the likelihoods and possibilities of our 
circumstances, I probably suffered more than most of my fel- 
low-servants. I had known what it was to experience kind 
and even tender treatment ; they had known nothing of the 
sort. Life to them had been rough and thorny, as well as 
dark. They had — most of them — lived on my old master's 
farm in Tuckahoe, and had felt the rigors of Mr. Plummer's 
rule. He had written his character on the living parchment 
of most of their backs, and left them seamed and callous ; 
my back (thanks to my early removal to Baltimore) was yet 
tender. I had left a kind mistress in tears when we parted, 
and the probability of ever seeing her again, trembling in 
the balance as it were, could not fail to excite in me alarm 
and agony. The thought of becoming the slave of Andrew 
Anthony — who but a few days before the division had in my 
presence seized my brother Perry by the throat, dashed him 
on the ground, and with the heel of his boot stamped him on 
the head, until the blood gushed from his nose and ears — was 
terrible ! This fiendish proceeding had no better apology than 
the fact that Perry had gone to play when Master Andrew 
wanted him for some trifling service. After inflicting this 
cruel treatment on my brother, observing me, as I looked at 
him in astonishment, he said : " Thatfs the way I'll serve you, 
one of these days " ; meaning, probably, when I should come 
into his possession. This threat, the reader may well suppose, 
was not very tranquilizmg to my feelings. 

At last the anxiety and suspense were ended ; and ended, 


thanks to a kind Providence, in accordance with my wishes. 
I fell to the portion of Mrs. Lucretia, the dear lady who bound 
up my head in her father's kitchen, and shielded me from the 
maledictions of Aunt Katy. 

Capt. Thomas Auld and Mrs. Lucretia at once decided on 
my return to Baltimore. They knew how warmly Mrs. Hugh 
Auld was attached to me, and how delighted Tommy would 
be to see me, and withal, having no immediate use for me, 
they willingly concluded this arrangement. 

I need not stop to narrate my joy on finding myself back in 
Baltimore. I was just one month absent, but the time seemed 
fully six months. 

I had returned to Baltimore but a short time when the tid- 
ings reached me that my kind friend, Mrs. Lucretia, was dead. 
She left one child, a daughter, named Amanda, of whom I 
shall speak again. Shortly after the death of Mrs. Lucretia, 
Master Andrew died, leaving a wife and one child. Thus the 
whole family of Anthonys, as it existed when I went to Col. 
Lloyd's place, was swept away during the first five years' 
time of my residence at Master Hugh Auld's in Baltimore. 

No especial alteration took place in the condition of the 
slaves, in consequence of these deaths, yet I could not help 
the feeling that I was less secure now that Mrs. Lucretia was 
gone. While she lived, I felt that I had a strong friend to 
plead for me in any emergency. 

In a little book which I published six years after my escape 
from slavery, entitled, " Narrative of Frederick Douglass," — 
when the distance between the past then described, and the 
present was not so great as it is now, — speaking of these 
changes in my master's family, and their results, I used this 
language : " Now all the property of my old master, slaves 
included, was in the hands of strangers — strangers who had 
nothing to do in accumulating it. Not a slave was left free. 
All remained slaves, from the youngest to the oldest. If any 
one thing in my experience, more than another, has served 
to deepen my conviction of the infernal character of slavery, 


and to fill me with unutterable loathing of slaveholders, it was 
their base ingratitude to my poor old grandmother. She had 
served my old master faithfully from youth to old age. She 
had been the source of all his wealth ; she had peopled his 
plantation with slaves ; she had become a great-grandmother 
in his service. She had rocked him in his infancy, attended 
him in his childhood, served him through life, and at his death 
wiped from his icy brow the cold death-sweat, and closed his 
eyes forever. She was nevertheless a slave — a slave for life — 
a slave in the hands of strangers ; and in their hands she saw 
her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, 
divided like so many sheep, without being gratified with the 
small privilege of a single word as to their or her own des- 
tiny. And to cap the climax of their base ingratitude, my 
grandmother, who was now very old, having outlived my old 
master and all his children, having seen the beginning and 
end of them, and her present owner — his grandson — finding she 
was of but little value — her frame already racked with the 
pains of old age, and complete helplessness fast stealing over 
her once active limbs — took her to the woods, built her a little 
hut with a mud chimney, and then gave her the bounteous 
privilege of supporting herself there in utter loneliness: thus 
virtually turning her out to die. If my poor, dear old grand- 
mother now lives, she lives to remember and mourn over the 
loss of children, the loss of grandchildren, and the loss of 
great-grandchildren. They are, in the language of Whittier, 
the slave's poet : 

' Gone, gone, sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone; 
"Where the slave- whip ceaseless swings, 
Where the noisome insect stings, 
Where the fever-demon strews 
Poison with the falling dews, 
Where the sickly sunbeams glare 
Through the hot and misty air: — 

Gone, gone, sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp, dank and lone, 
From Virginia's hills and waters — 
Woe is me, my stolen daughters I ' 


The hearth is desolate. The unconscious children who 
once sang and danced in her presence are gone. She gropes 
her way, in the darkness of age, for a drink of water. In- 
stead of the voices of her children, she hears by day the 
moans of the dove, and by night the screams of the hideous 
owl. All is gloom. The grave is at the door ; and now, 
weighed down by the pains and aches of old age, when the 
head inclines to the feet, when the beginning and ending of 
human existence meet, and helpless infancy, and painful old 
age combine together, at this time, — this most needed time 
for the exercise of that tenderness and affection which chil- 
dren only can bestow on a declining parent, — my poor old 
grandmother, the devoted mother of twelve children, is left all 
alone, in yonder little hut, before a few dim cinders." 

Two years after the death of Mrs. Lucretia, Master Thomas 
married his second wife. Her name was Rowena Hamilton, 
the eldest daughter of Mr. William Hamilton, a rich slave- 
holder on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, who lived about 
five miles from St. Michaels, the then place of Master 
Thomas Auld's residence. 

Not long after his marriage, Master Thomas had a mis- 
understanding with Master Hugh, and as a means of punish- 
ing him, he ordered him to send me home. As the ground of 
the misunderstanding will serve to illustrate the character of 
Southern chivalry and Southern humanity, fifty years ago, I 
will relate it. 

Among the children of my Aunt Milly, was a daughter 
named Henny. When quite a child, Henny had fallen into 
the fire and had burnt her hands so badly that they were of 
very little use to her. Her fingers were drawn almost into 
the palms of her hands. She could make out to do some- 
thing, but she was considered hardly worth the having — of 
little more value than a horse with a broken leg. This un- 
profitable piece of property, ill-shapen and disfigured, Capt. 
Auld sent off to Baltimore. 


After giving poor Henny a fair trial, Master Hugh and his 
wife came to the conclusion that they had no use for the poor 
cripple, and they sent her back to Master Thomas. This the 
latter took as an act of ingratitude on the part of his brother, 
and as a mark of his displeasure, he required him to send me 
immediately to St. Michaels, saying, "if he cannot keep Hen., 
he shan't have Fred." 

Here was another shock to my nerves, another breaking up 
of my plans, and another severance of my religious and social 
alliances. I was now a big boy. I had become quite useful 
to several young colored men, who had made me their teacher. 
I had taught some of them to read, and was accustomed to 
spend many of my leisure hours with them. Our attachment 
was strong, and I greatly dreaded the separation. But regrets 
with slaves were unavailing : my wishes were nothing ; my 
happiness was the sport of my master. 

My regrets at leaving Baltimore now were not for the same 
reasons as when I before left the city to be valued and handed 
over to a new owner. 

A change had taken place, both in Master Hugh and in his 
once pious and affectionate wife. The influence of brandy 
and bad company on him, and of slavery and social isolation 
on her, had wrought disastrously upon the characters of both. 
Thomas was no longer " little Tommy," but was a big boy, 
and had learned to assume the airs of his class towards me. 
My condition, therefore, in the house of Master Hugh was 
not by any means so comfortable as in former years. My 
attachments were now outside of our family. They were to 
those to whom I imparted instruction, and to those little white 
boys, from whom I received instruction. There, too, was my 
dear old father, the pious Lawson, who was in all the Christian 
graces the very counterpart of " Uncle Tom " — the resem- 
blance so perfect that he might have been the original of Mrs. 
Stowe's Christian hero. The thought of leaving these dear 
friends greatly troubled me, for I was going without the hope 
of ever returning again; the feud being most bitter, and 
apparently wholly irreconcilable. 


In addition to the pain of parting from friends, as I sup- 
posed, forever, I had the added grief of neglected chances of 
escape to brood over. I had put off running away until I was 
now to be placed where opportunities for escape would be 
much more difficult, and less frequent. 

As we sailed down the Chesapeake bay, on board the sloop 
Amanda, to St. Michaels, and were passed by the steamers ply- 
ing between Baltimore and Philadelphia, I formed many a 
plan for my future, beginning and ending in the same deter- 
mination — yet to find some way of escape from slavery. 



St. Michaels rind its inhabitants — Capt. Auld — His new wife — Suffering? 
from hunger — Forced to steal — Argument in vindication thereof — South 
ern camp-meeting — What Capt. Auld did there — Hopes — Suspicions — The 
result — Faith and works at variance — Position in the church — Poor Cousin 
Henny — Methodist preachers — Their disregard of the slaves — One excep- 
tion — Sabbath-school — How and by whom broken up — Sad change in my 
prospects — Covey, the negro-breaker. 

ST. MICHAELS, the village in which was now my new 
home, compared favorably with villages in slave States 
generally, at this time — 1833. There were a few comfortable 
dwellings in it, but the place as a whole wore a dull, slovenly, 
enterprise-forsaken aspect. The mass of the buildings were 
of wood ; they had never enjoyed the artificial adornment of 
paint, and time and storms had worn off the bright color of 
the wood, leaving them almost as black as buildings charred 
by a conflagration. 

St. Michaels had, in former years, enjoyed some reputation 
as a ship-building community, but that business had almost 
entirely given place to oyster fishing for the Baltimore and 
Philadelphia markets, a course of life highly unfavorable to 
morals, industry, and manners. . Miles river was broad, and 
its oyster fishing grounds were extensive, and the fishermen 
were out often all day and a part of the night, during autumn, 
winter, and spring. This exposure was an excuse for carry- 
ing with them, in considerable quantities, spirituous liquors, 
the then supposed best antidote for cold. Each canoe was 
supplied with its jug of rum, and tippling among this class of 
the citizens became general. This drinking habit, in an ig- 
norant population, fostered coarseness, vulgarity, and an indo- 
lent disregard for the social improvement of the place, so 



that it was admitted by the few sober thinking people who 
remained there, that St. Michaels was an unsaintly, as well as 
unsightly place. 

I went to St. Michaels to live in March, 1833. I know 
the year, because it was the one succeeding the first cholera 
in Baltimore, and was also the year of that strange phenome- 
non when the heavens seemed about to part with its starry 
train. I witnessed this gorgeous spectacle, and was awe- 
struck. The air seemed filled with bright descending mes- 
sengers from the sky. It was about daybreak when I saw 
this sublime scene. I was not without the suggestion, at the 
moment, that it might be the harbinger of the coming of the 
Son of man ; and in my then state of mind I was prepared to 
hail Him as my friend and deliverer. I had read that the 
" stars shall fall from heaven," and they were now falling. 
I was suffering very much in my mind. It did seem that 
every time the young tendrils of my affection became attached 
they were rudely broken by some unnatural outside power ; 
and I was looking away to heaven for the rest denied me on 

But to my story. It was now more than seven years since 
I had lived with Master Thomas Auld, in the family of my 
old master, Capt. Anthony, on the home plantation of Col. 
Lloyd. As I knew him then it was as the husband of old 
master's daughter ; I had now to know him as my master. 
All my lessons concerning his temper and disposition, and the 
best methods of pleasing him, were yet to be learned. Slave- 
holders, however, were not very ceremonious in approaching 
a slave, and my ignorance of the new material in the shape 
of a master was but transient. Nor was my new mistress 
long in making known her animus. Unlike Miss Lucretia, 
whom I remembered with the tenderness which departed 
blessings leave, Mrs. Rowena Auld was cold and cruel, as her 
husband was stingy, and possessed the power to make him as 
cruel as herself, while she could easily descend to the level 
of his meanness. 


As long as I had lived in Mr. Hugh Auld's family, what- 
ever changes had come over them there had been always a 
bountiful supply of food ; and now, for the first time in seven 
years, I realized the pitiless pinchings of hunger. So wretch- 
edly starved were we that we were compelled to live at the 
expense of our neighbors, or to steal from the home larder. 
This was a hard thing to do ; but after much reflection I 
reasoned myself into the conviction that there was no other 
way to do, and that after all there was no wrong in it. Con- 
sidering that my labor and person were the property of Mas- 
ter Thomas, and that I was deprived of the necessaries of 
life — necessaries obtained by my own labor, it was easy to 
deduce the right to supply myself with what was my own. 
It was simply appropriating what was my own to the use of 
my master, since the health and strength derived from such 
food were exerted in his service. To be sure, this was steal- 
ing, according to the law and gospel I heard from the pulpit ; 
but I had begun to attach less importance to what dropped 
from that quarter on such points. It was not always conven- 
ient to steal from Master, and the same reason why I might 
innocently steal from him did not seem to justify me in steal- 
ing from others. In the case of my master it was a question 
of removal — the taking his meat out of one tub and putting 
it in another ; the ownership of the meat was not affected by 
the transaction. At first he owned it in the tub, and last he 
owned it in me. His meat-house was not always open. 
There was a strict watch kept in that point, and the key was 
carried in Mrs. Auld's pocket. We were oftentimes severely 
pinched with hunger, when meat and bread were mouldering 
under the lock and key. This was so, when she knew we 
were nearly half-starved ; and yet with saintly air would she 
kneel with her husband and pray each morning that a merci- 
ful God would " bless them in basket and store, and save them 
at last in His kingdom." But I proceed with my argument. 

It was necessary that the right to steal from others should 
be established ; and this could only rest upon a wider range 


of generalization than that which supposed the right to steal 
from my master. It was some time before I arrived at this 
clear right. To give some idea of my train of reasoning, I 
will state the case as I laid it out in my mind. "I am," I 
thought, "not only the slave of Master Thomas, but I am the 
slave of society at large. . Society at large has bound itself, 
in form and in fact, to assist Master Thomas in robbing me 
of my rightful liberty, and of the just reward of my labor ; 
therefore, whatever rights I have against Master Thomas I 
have equally against those confederated with him in robbing 
me of liberty. As society has marked me out as privileged 
plunder, on the principle of self-preservation, I am justified 
in plundering in turn. Since each slave belongs to all, all 
must therefore belong to each." I reasoned further, that 
within the bounds of his just earnings the slave was fully 
justified in helping himself to the gold and silver, and the 
best apparel of his master, or that of any other slave-holder ; 
and that such taking was not stealing, in any just sense of 
the word. 

The morality of free society could have no application to 
slave society. Slaveholders made it almost impossible for 
the slave to commit any crime, known either to the laws of 
God or to the laws of man. If he stole he but took his own ; 
if he killed his master, he only imitated the heroes of the 
revolution. Slaveholders I held to be individually and col- 
lectively responsible for all the evils which grew out of the 
horrid relation, and I believed they would be so held in the 
sight of God. To make a man a slave was to rob him of 
moral responsibility. Freedom of choice is the essence of all 
accountability ; but my kind readers are probably less con- 
cerned about what were my opinions than about that which 
more nearly touched my personal experience, albeit my opin- 
ions have, in some sort, been the outgrowth of my experience. 

When I lived with Capt. Auld I thought him incapable of 
a noble action. His leading characteristic was intense selfish- 
ness. I think he was fully aware of this fact himself, and 


often tried to conceal it. Capt. Auld was not a born slave- 
holder — not a birthright member of the slave-holding oli- 
garchy. He was only a slaveholder by marriage-right ; and 
of all slaveholders these were by far the most exacting. 
There was in him all the love of domination, the pride of 
mastery, and the swagger of authority ; but his rule lacked 
the vital element of consistency. He could be cruel ; but his 
methods of showing it were cowardly, and evinced his mean- 
ness, rather than his spirit. His commands were strong, his 
enforcements weak. 

Slaves were not insensible to the whole-souled qualities of 
a generous, dashing slaveholder, who was fearless of con- 
sequences, and they preferred a master of this bold and daring 
kind, even with the risk of being shot down for impudence, 
to the fretful little soul who never used the lash but at the 
suggestion of a love of gain. 

Slaves too, readily distinguished between the birthright 
bearing of the original slaveholder, and the assumed attitudes 
of the accidental slaveholder ; and while they could have no 
respect for either, they despised the latter more than the 

The luxury of having slaves to wait upon him was new to 
Master Thomas, and for it he was wholly unprepared. He 
was a- slaveholder, without the abilitv to hold or manage his 
slaves. Failing to command their respect, both himself and 
wife were ever on the alert lest some indignity should be offered 
him by the slaves. 

It was in the month of August, 1833, when I had become 
almost desperate under the treatment of Master Thomas, and 
entertained more strongly than ever the oft-repeated determi- 
nation to run away, — a circumstance occurred which seemed 
to promise brighter and better clays for us all. At a Metho- 
dist camp-meeting, held in the Bay side (a famous place for 
camp-meetings) about eight miles from St. Michaels, Master 
Thomas came out with a profession of religion. He had long 
been an object of interest to the church, and to the ministers, 


as I had seen by the repeated visits and lengthy exhortations 
of the latter. He was a fish quite worth catching, for he had 
money and standing. In the community of St. Michaels, he 
was equal to the best citizen. He was strictly -temperate, and 
there was little to do for him, to give him the appearance of 
piety, and to make him a pillar of the church. Well, the 
camp-meeting continued a week; people gathered from all 
parts of the country, and two steamboats came loaded from 
Baltimore. The ground was happily chosen ; seats were 
arranged ; a stand erected ; a rude altar fenced in, fronting 
the preacher's stand, with straw in it, making a soft knceling- 
place for the accommodation of mourners. This place would 
have held at least one hundred persons. In front and on the 
sides of the preacher's stand, and outside the long rows of seats, 
rose the first class of stately tents, each vieing with the other 
in strength, neatness, and capacity for accommodation. Behind 
this first circle ot tents, was another less imposing, which 
reached round the camp-ground to the speaker's stand. Out- 
side this second class of tents were covered wagons, ox-carts, 
and vehicles of every shape and size. These served as tents 
to their owners. Outside of these, huge fires were burning 
in all directions, where roasting and boiling and frying were 
going on, for the benefit of those who were attending to their 
spiritual welfare within the circle. Behind the preacher's 
stand, a narrow space was marked out for the use of the colored 
people. There were no seats provided for this class of persons, 
and if the preachers addressed them at all, it was in an aside. 
After the preaching was over, at every service, an invitation was 
given to mourners to come forward into the pen ; and in some 
cases, ministers went out to persuade men and women to come 
in. By one of these ministers, Master Thomas was persuaded 
to go inside the pen. I was deeply interested in that matter, 
and followed ; and though colored people were not allowed 
either in the pen,. or in front of the preacher's stand, I ven- 
tured to take my stand at a sort of half-way place between the 
blacks and whites, where I could distinctly see the movements 


of the mourners, and especially the progress of Master Thomas. 
" If he has got religion," thought I, " he will emancipate 
his slaves ; or, if he should not do so much as this, he will at 
any rate behave towards us more kindly, and feed us more 
generously than he has heretofore done." Appealing to my 
own religious experience, and judging my master by what was 
true in my own case, I could not regard him as soundly con- 
verted, unless some such good results followed his profession 
of religion. But in my expectations I was doubly disappointed: 
Master Thomas was Master Thomas still. The fruits of his 
righteousness were to show themselves in no such way as I 
had anticipated. His conversion was not to change his rela- 
tion toward men — at any rate not toward black men — but 
toward God. My faith, I confess, was not great. There was 
something in his appearance that in my mind cast a doubt 
over his conversion. Standing where I did, I could see his 
every movement. I watched very narrowly while he remained 
in the pen ; and although 1 saw that his face was extremely 
red, and his hair disheveled, and though I heard him groan, 
and saw a stray tear halting on his cheek, as if inquiring, 
" which way shall I go ?" — I could not wholly confide in the 
genuineness of the conversion. The hesitating behavior of 
that tear-drop, and its loneliness, distressed me, and cast a 
doubt upon the whole transaction, of which it was a part. 
But people said, " Capt. Auld has come through," and it was 
for me to hope for the best. I was bound to do this in charity, 
for I, too, was religious, and had been in the church full three 
years, although now I was not more than sixteen years old. 
Slaveholders might sometimes have confidence in the piety of 
some of their slaves, but the slaves seldom had confidence in 
the piety of their masters. " He can't go to heaven without 
blood on his skirts," was a settled point in the creed of every 
slavt ; which rose superior to all teaching to the contrary, and 
stood forever as a fixed fact. The highest evidence the slave- 
holder could give the slave of his acceptance with God, was 
the emancipation of his slaves. This was proof to us that he 


was willing to give up all to God, and for the sake of God, 
and not to do this was, in our estimation, an evidence of hard- 
heartedness, and was wholly inconsistent with the idea of 
genuine conversion. I had read somewhere in the Methodist 
Discipline, the following question and answer : " Question. 
What shall be done for the extirpation of slavery ? " "Answer. 
We declare that we are as much as ever convinced of the 
great evil of slavery ; therefore, no slaveholder shall be eligi- 
ble to any official station in our church." These words sounded 
in my ears for a long time, and encouraged me to hope. But 
as I have before said, I was doomed to disappointment. Mas- 
ter Thomas seemed to be aware of my hopes and expectations 
concerning him. I have thought before now that he looked 
at me in answer to my glances, as much as to say, " I will 
teach you, young man. that though I have parted with my sins, 
1 have not parted with my sense. I shall hold my slaves, and 
go to heaven too." 

There was always a scarcity of good nature about the man ; 
but now his whole countenance was soured all over with the 
seemings of piety and he became more rigid and stringent in 
his exactions. If religion had any effect at all on him, it 
made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways. Do I judge 
him harshly ? God forbid. Capt. Auld made the greatest 
professions of piety. His house was literally a house of 
prayer. In the morning and in the evening loud prayers and 
hymns were heard there, in which both himself and wife 
joined ; yet no more nor better meal was distributed at the 
quarters, no more attention was paid to the moral welfare of 
the kitchen, and nothing was done to make us feel that the 
heart of Master Thomas was one whit better than it was before 
he went into the little pen, opposite the preacher's stand on 
the camp-ground. Our hopes, too, founded on the discipline, 
soon vanished ; for he was taken into the church at once, and 
before he was out of his term of probation, he lead in class. 
He quite distinguished himself among the brethren as a fer- 
vent exhorter. His progress was almost as rapid as the growth 


of the fabled vine of Jack and the bean-stalk. No man was 
more active in revivals, or would go more miles to assist in 
carrying them on, and in getting outsiders interested in relig- 
ion. His house, being one of the holiest in St. Michaels, 
became the " preachers' home." They evidently liked to share 
his hospitality ; for while he starved us, he stuffed them — 
three or four of these " ambassadors " being there not unfre- 
quently at a time — all living on the fat of the land, while we 
in the kitchen were worse than hungry. Not often did we 
get a smile of recognition from these holy men. They seemed 
about as unconcerned about our getting to heaven, as about 
our getting out of slavery. To this general charge, I must 
make one exception — the Reverend George Cookman. Unlike 
Rev. Messrs. Storks, Ewry, Nicky, Humphrey ,"and Cooper (all 
of whom were on the St. Michaels circuit), he kindly took an 
interest in our temporal and spiritual welfare. Our souls and 
our bodies were alike sacred in his sight, and he really had a 
good deal of genuine anti-slavery feeling mingled with his 
colonization ideas. There was not a slave in on* neighbor- 
hood who did not love and venerate Mr. Cookman. It was 
pretty generally believed that he had been instrumental in 
bringing one of the largest slaveholders in that neighborhood 
— Mr. Samuel Harrison — to emancipate all his slaves, and the 
general impression about Mr. Cookman was, that whenever he 
met slaveholders he labored faithfully with them, as a religious 
duty, to induce them to liberate their bondmen. When this 
good man was at our house, we were all sure to be called in 
to prayers in the morning ; and he was not slow in making 
inquiries as to the state of our minds, nor in giving us a word 
of exhortation and of encouragement. Great was the sorrow 
of all the slaves when this faithful preacher of the gospel was 
removed from the circuit. He was an eloquent preacher, and 
possessed what few ministers, south of Mason and Dixon's 
line, possessed or dared to show ; viz., a warm and philan- 
thropic heart. This Mr. Cookman was an Englishman by 
birth, and perished on board the ill-fated steamship " Presi- 
dent," while on his way to England. 


But to my experience with Master Thomas after his con- 
version. In Baltimore I could occasionally get into a Sabbath- 
school, amongst the free children, and receive lessons with 
the rest ; but having learned to read and write already, 1 was 
more a teacher than a scholar, even there. When, however, 
I went back to the eastern shore and was at the house of 
Master Thomas, I was not allowed either to teach or to be 
taught. The whole community, with but one single exception, 
among the whites, frowned upon everything like imparting 
instruction, either to slaves or to free colored persons. That 
single exception, a pious young man named Wilson, asked 
me one day if I would like to assist him in teaching a little 
Sabbath-school, at the house of a free colored man named 
James Mitchell. The idea was to me a delightful one, and I 
told him I would gladly devote as much of my Sabbaths as I 
could command to that most laudable work. Mr. Wilson 
soon mustered up a dozen old spelling-books and a few testa- 
ments, and we commenced operations, with some twenty 
scholars in our school. Here, thought I, is something worth 
living for ; here is a chance for usefulness. The first Sunday 
passed delightfully, and I spent the week after very joyously. 
I could not go to Baltimore, where I and the little company 
of young friends who had been so much to me there, and 
from whom I felt parted forever, but I could make a little 
Baltimore here. At our second meeting I learned there were 
some objections to the existence of our school ; and sure 
enough, we had scarcely got to work — good work, simply 
teaching a few colored children how to read the gospel of the 
Son of God — when in rushed a mob, headed by two class- 
leaders, Mr. Wright Fairbanks and Mr. Garrison West, and 
with them Master Thomas. They were armed with sticks 
and other missiles, and drove us off, commanding us never to 
meet for such a purpose again. One of this pious crew told 
me that as for me, I wanted to be another Nat. Turner, and 
if I did not look out I should get as many balls in me as 
Nat. did into him. Thus ended the Sabbath-school ; and the 


reader will not be surprised that this conduct, on the part of 
class-leaders and professedly holy men, did not serve to 
strengthen my religious convictions. The cloud over my St. 
Michaels home grew heavier and blacker than ever. 

It was not merely the agency of Master Thomas in break- 
ing up our Sabbath-school, that shook my confidence in the 
power of that kind of southern religion to make men wiser 
or better, but I saw in him all the cruelty and meanness after 
his conversion which he had exhibited before time. His cru- 
elty and meanness were especially displayed in his treatment 
of my unfortunate cousin Henny, whose lameness made her 
a burden to him. I have seen him tie up this lame and 
maimed woman and whip her in a manner most brutal and 
shocking ; and then with blood-chilling blasphemy he would 
quote the passage of scripture, " That servant which knew 
his lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according 
to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." He would 
keep this lacerated woman tied up by her wrists to a bolt in 
the joist, three, four, and five hours at a time. He would tie 
her up early in the morning, whip her with a cowskin before 
breakfast, leave her tied up, go to his store, and returning to 
dinner repeat the castigation, laying on the rugged lash on 
flesh already raw by repeated blows. He seemed desirous to 
get the poor girl out of existence, or at any rate off his hands. 
In proof of this, he afterwards gave her away to his sister 
Sarah (Mrs. Cline), but as in the case of Mr. Hugh, Henny 
was soon returned on his hands. Finally, upon a pretense 
that he could do nothing for her (I use his own words), he 
" set her adrift to take care of herself.' , Here was a recently 
converted man, holding with tight grasp the well-framed and 
able-bodied slaves left him by old master — the persons who in 
freedom could have taken care of themselves; yet turning 
loose the only cripple among them, virtually to starve and 

No doubt, had Master Thomas been asked by some pious 
northern brother, why he held slaves ? his reply would have 


been precisely that which many another slaveholder has 
returned to the same inquiry, viz. ; " I hold my slaves for 
their own good." 

The many differences springing up between Master Thomas 
and myself, owing to the clear perception I had of his char- 
acter, and the boldness with which I defended myself against 
his capricious complaints, led him to declare that I was un- 
suited to his wants ; that my city life had affected me perni- 
ciously ; that in fact it had almost ruined me for every good 
purpose, and had fitted me for everything bad. One of my 
greatest faults, or offences, was that of letting his horse get 
away and go down to the farm which belonged to his father- 
in-law. The animal had a liking for that farm with which I 
fully sympathized. Whenever I let it out it would go dashing 
down the road to Mr. Hamilton's as if going on a grand frolic. 
My horse gone, of course I must go after it. The explana- 
tion of our mutual attachment to the place is the same — the 
horse found good pasturage, and I found there plenty of bread. 
Mr. Hamilton had his faults, but starving his slaves was not 
one of them. He gave food in abundance, and of excellent 
quality. In Mr. Hamilton's cook — Aunt Mary — I found a 
generous and considerate friend. She never allowed me to 
go there without giving me bread enough to make good the 
deficiencies of a day or two. Master Thomas at last resolved 
to endure my behavior no longer ; he could keep neither me 
nor his horse, we liked so well to be at his father-in-law's 
farm. I had now lived with him nearly nine months, and he 
had given me a number of severe whippings, without any vis- 
ible improvement in my character or conduct, and now he 
was resolved to put me out, as he said, " to be broken." 

There was, in the Bay-side, very near the camp-ground 
where my master received his religious impressions, a man 
named Edward Covey, who enjoyed the reputation of being a 
first rate hand at breaking young negroes. This Covey was a 
poor man, a farm renter ; and his reputation of being a good 
hand to break in slaves was of immense pecuniary advantage 


to him, since it enabled him to get his farm tilled with very 
little expense, compared with what it would have cost him 
otherwise. Some slaveholders thought it an advantage to 
let Mr. Covey have the government of their slaves a year or 
two, almost free of charge, for the sake of the excellent train- 
ing they had under his management. Like some horse-break- 
ers noted for their skill, who ride the best horses in the 
country without expense, Mr. Covey could have under him 
the most fiery bloods of the neighborhood, for the simple 
reward of returning them to their owners well broken. Added 
to the natural fitness of Mr. Covey for the duties of his pro- 
fession, he was said " to enjoy religion," and lie was as strict 
in the cultivation of piety as he was in the cultivation of his 
farm. I was made aware of these traits in his character by 
some one who had been under his hand, and while I could 
not look forward to going to him with any degree of pleasure, 
I was glad to get away from St. Michaels. I believed I should 
get enough to eat at Covey's, even if I suffered in other 
respects, and this to a hungry man is not a prospect to be 
regarded with indifference. 



Journey to Covey's — Meditations by the way — Covey's house — Family — 
Awkwardness as a field hand — A cruel beating — Why given — Description 
of Covey — First attempt at driving oxen — Hair-breadth escape — Ox and 
man alike property — Hard labor more effective than the whip for break- 
ing down the spirit — Cunning and trickery of Covey — Family worship — 
Shocking and indecent contempt for chastity — Great mental agitation — 
Anguish beyond description. 

THE morning of January 1, 1834, with its chilling wind 
and pinching frost, quite in harmony with the winter in 
my own mind, found me, with my little bundle of clothing on the 
end of a stick swung across my shoulder, on the main road 
bending my way towards Covey's, whither I had been imperi- 
ously ordered by Master Thomas. He had been as good as 
his word, and had committed me without reserve to the mas- 
tery of that hard man. Eight or ten years had now passed 
since I had been taken from my grandmother's cabin in Tuck- 
ahoe ; and these years, for the most part, I had spent in Bal- 
timore, where, as the reader has already seen, I was treated 
with comparative tenderness. I was now about to sound pro- 
founder depths in slave life. My new master was notorious 
for his fierce and savage disposition, and my only consolation 
in going to live with him was the certainty of finding him 
precisely as represented by common fame. There was neither 
joy in my heart nor elasticity in my frame as I started for the 
tyrant's home. Starvation made me glad to leave Thomas 
Auld's, and the cruel lash made me dread to go to Covey's. 
Escape, however, was impossible ; so, heavy and sad, I paced 
the seven miles which lay between his house and St. Michaels, 
thinking much by the solitary way of my adverse condition. 
But thinking was all I could do. Like a fish in a net, allowed 



to play for a time, I was now drawn rapidly to the shore, se- 
cured at all points. " I am," thought I, " but the sport of a 
power which makes no account, either of my welfare or my 
happiness. By a law which I can comprehend, but cannot 
evade or resist, I am ruthlessly snatched from the hearth of a 
fond grandmother and hurried away to the home of a mys- 
terious old master ; again I am removed from there to a mas- 
ter in Baltimore ; thence am I snatched away to the eastern 
shore to be valued with the beasts of the field, and with them 
divided and set apart for a possessor ; then I am sent back to 
Baltimore, and by the time I have formed new attachments 
and have begun to hope that no more rude shocks shall touch 
me, a difference arises between brothers and I am again 
broken up and sent to St. Michaels ; and now from the latter 
place I am footing my way to the home of another master, 
where I am given to understand that like a wild young work- 
ing animal I am to be broken to the yoke of a bitter and life- 
long bondage." With thoughts and reflections like these, I 
came in sight of a small wood-colored building, about a mile 
from the main road, which, from the description I had received 
at starting I easily recognized as my new home. The Chesa- 
peake bay, upon the jutting banks of which the little wood- 
colored house was standing, white with foam raised by the 
heavy northwest wind ; Poplar Island, covered with a thick 
black pine forest, standing out amid this half ocean ; and 
Keat Point, stretching its sandy, desert-like shores out into 
the foam-crested bay, were all in sight, and served to deepen 
the wild and desolate scene. 

The good clothes I had brought with me from Baltimore 
were now worn thin, and had not been replaced ; for Master 
Thomas was as little careful to provide against cold as hun- 
ger. Met here by a north wind, sweeping through an open 
space of forty miles, I was glad to make any port, and, there- 
fore, I speedily pressed on to the wood-colored house. The 
family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Covey; Mrs. Kemp (a 
broken-backed woman), sister to Mrs. Covey ; William Hughes, 


cousin to Mr. Covey ; Caroline, the cook ; Bill Smith, a hired 
man, and myself. Bill Smith, Bill Hughes, and myself were 
the working force of the farm, which comprised three or four 
hundred acres. I was now for the first time in my life to be 
a field-hand ; and in my new employment I found myself even 
more awkward than a green country boy may be supposed to 
be upon his first entrance into the bewildering scenes of city 
life ; and my awkwardness gave me much trouble. Strange 
and unnatural as it may seem, I had been in my new home 
but three days before Mr. Covey (my brother in the Methodist 
church) gave me a bitter foretaste of what was in reserve for 
me. I presume he thought that since he had but a single 
year in which to complete his work, the sooner he begun, the 
better. Perhaps he thought by coming to blows at once we 
should mutually understand better our relations to each other. 
But to whatever motive, direct or indirect, the cause may be 
referred, I had not been in his possession three whole days 
before he subjected me to a most brutal chastisement. Under 
his heavy blows blood flowed freely, and wales were left on 
my back as large as my little finger. The sores from this 
flogging continued for weeks, for they were kept open by the 
rough and coarse cloth which I wore for shirting. The occa- 
sion and details of this first chapter of my experience as a 
field-hand, must be told, that the reader may see how unrea- 
sonable, as well as how cruel, my new Master Covey was. The 
whole thing I found to be characteristic of the man, and I was 
probably treated no worse by him than scores of lads who had 
previously been committed to him, for reasons similar to those 
which induced my master to place me with him. But here 
are the facts connected with the affair, precisely as they 

On one of the coldest mornings of the whole month of Jan- 
uary, 1834, 1 was ordered at daybreak to get a load of wood, 
from a forest about two miles from the house. In order to 
perform this vork, Mr. Covey gave me a pair of unbroken 
oxen, for it seemed that his breaking abilities had not been 


turned in that direction. In due form, and with all proper 
ceremony, I was introduced to this huge yoke of unbroken 
oxen, and was carefully made to understand which was 
" Buck/' and which was " Darby," — which was the " in hand," 
and which was the " off hand "ox. The master of this im- 
portant ceremony was no less a person than Mr. Covey him- 
self ; and the introduction was the first of the kind I had 
ever had. 

My life, hitherto, had been quite away from horned cattle, 
and I had no knowledge of the art of managing them. What 
was meant by the " in ox," as against the " off ox," when 
both were equally fastened to one cart, and under one yoke, 
I could not very easily divine ; and the difference implied by 
the names, and the peculiar duties of each, were alike Greek 
to me. Why was not the " off ox " called the " in ox ? " 
Where and what is the reason for this distinction in names, 
when there is none in the things themselves ? After initiating 
me into the use of the " whoa," " back," " gee," " hither," — 
the entire language spoken between oxen and driver, — Mr. 
Covey took a rope about ten feet long and one inch thick, and 
placed one end of it around the horns of the " in hand ox," 
and gave the other end to me, telling me that if the oxen 
started to run away (as the scamp knew they would), I must 
hold on to the rope and stop them. I need not tell any one 
who is acquainted with either the strength or the disposition 
of an untamed ox, that this order was about as unreasonable 
as a command to shoulder a mad bull. I had never driven 
oxen before, and I was as awkward, as a driver, as it is possi- 
ble to conceive. I could not plead my ignorance to Mr. Covey ; 
there was that in his manner which forbade any reply. Cold, 
distant, morose, with a face wearing all the marks of captious 
pride and malicious sternness, he repelled all advances. He 
was not a large man — not more than five feet ten inches in 
height, I should think; short-necked, round-shouldered, of 
quick and wiry motion, of thin and wolfish visage, with a pair 
of small, greenish-gray eyes, set well back under a forehead 


without dignity, and which were constantly in motion, express- 
ing his passions rather than his thoughts, in sight but deny- 
ing them utterance in words. The creature presented an 
appearance altogether ferocious and sinister, disagreeable and 
forbidding, in the extreme. When he spoke, it was from the 
corner of his mouth, and in a sort of light growl, like a dog, 
when an attempt is made to take a bone from him. I already 
believed him a worse fellow than he had been represented to 
be. "With his directions, and without stopping to question, I 
started for the woods, quite anxious to perform my first ex- 
ploit in driving in a creditable manner. The distance from 
the house to the wood's gate — a full mile, I should think — 
was passed over with little difficulty : for, although the ani- 
mals ran, I was fleet enough in the open field to keep pace 
with them, especially as they pulled me along at the end of 
the rope ; but on reaching the woods, I was speedily thrown 
into a distressing plight. The animals took fright, and 
started off ferociously into the woods, carrying the cart full 
tilt against trees, over stumps, and dashing from side to side 
in a manner altogether frightful. As I held the rope I 
expected every moment to be crushed between the cart and 
the huge trees, among which they were so furiously dashing. 
After running thus for several minutes, my oxen were finally 
brought to a stand by a tree, against which they dashed them- 
selves with great violence, upsetting the cart, and entangling 
themselves among sundry young saplings. By the shock the 
body of the cart was flung in one direction and the wheels 
and tongue in another, and all in the greatest confusion. There 
I was, all alone in a thick wood to which I was a stranger ; 
my cart upset and shattered, my oxen entangled, wild, and 
enraged, and I, poor soul, but a green hand to set all this dis- 
order right. I knew no more of oxen than the ox-driver is 
supposed to know of wisdom. 

After standing a few minutes, surveying the damage, and 
not without a presentiment that this trouble would draw after 
it others, even more distressing, I took one end of the cart 


body and, by an extra outlay of strength, I lifted it toward 
the axle-tree, from which it had been violently flung ; and 
after much pulling and straining, I succeeded in getting the 
body of the cart in its place. This was an important step out 
of the difficulty, and its performance increased my courage 
for the work which remained to be done. The cart was pro- 
vided with an ax, a tool with which I had become pretty 
well acquainted in the ship-yard at Baltimore. With this I 
cut down the saplings by which my oxen were entangled, and 
again pursued my journey, with my heart in my mouth, lest 
the oxen should again take it into their senseless heads to cut 
up a caper. But their spree was over for the present, and the 
rascals now moved off as soberly as though their behavior 
had been natural and exemplary. On reaching the part of 
the forest where I had been the day before chopping wood, I 
filled the cart with a heavy load, as a security against another 
runaway. But the neck of an ox is equal in strength to iron. 
It defies ordinary burdens. Tame and docile to a proverb, 
when well trained, the ox is the most sullen and intractable of 
animals when but half broken to the yoke. I saw in my own 
situation several points of similarity with that of the oxen. 
They were property ; so was I. Covey was to break me — I 
was to break them. Break and be broken was the order. 

Half of the day was already gone and I had not yet turned 
my face homeward. It required only two days' experience 
and observation to teach me that no such apparent waste of 
time would be lightly overlooked by Covey. I therefore hur- 
ried toward home ; but in reaching the lane gate I met the 
crowning disaster of the day. This gate was a fair specimen 
of southern handicraft. There were two huge posts eighteen 
inches in diameter, rough hewed and square, and the heavy gate 
was so hung on one of these that it opened only about half the 
proper distance. On arriving here it was necessary for me to let 
go the end of the rope on the horns of the " in hand ox ; " and 
now as soon as the gate was open and I let go of it to get the 
rope again, off vent my oxen, making nothing of their load, 


full tilt ; and in so doing they caught the huge gate between 
the wheel and the cart body, literally crushing it to splinters, 
and coming only within a few inches of subjecting me to a 
similar crushing, for I was just in advance of the wheel when 
it struck the left gate post. With these two hair-breadth 
escapes I thought I could successfully explain to Mr. Covey 
the delay and avert punishment — I was not without a faint 
hope of being commended for the stern resolution which I 
had displayed in accomplishing the difficult task — a task 
which I afterwards learned even Covey himself would not 
have undertaken without first driving the oxen for some time 
in the open field, preparatory to their going to the woods. 
But in this hope I was disappointed. On coming to him his 
countenance assumed an aspect of rigid displeasure, and as I 
gave him a history of the casualties of my trip, his wolfish 
face, with his greenish eyes, became intensely ferocious. " Go 
back to the woods again," he said, muttering something else 
about wasting time. I hastily obeyed, but I had not gone far 
on my way when I saw him coming after me. My oxen now 
behaved themselves with singular propriety, contrasting their 
present conduct to my representation of their former antics. 
I almost wished, now that Covey was coming, they would do 
something in keeping with the character I had given them ; 
but no, they had already had their spree, and they could afford 
now to be extra good, readily obeying orders, and seeming to 
understand them quite as well as I did myself. On reaching 
the woods my tormentor, who seemed all the time to be re- 
marking to himself upon the good behavior of the oxen, came 
up to me and ordered me to stop the cart^ accompanying the 
same with the threat that he would now teach me how to 
break gates and idle away my time when he sent me to the 
woods. Suiting the action to the words, Covey paced off, in 
his own wiry fashion, to a large black gum tree, the young 
shoots of which are generally used for ox goads, they being 
exceedingly tough. Three of these goads, from four to six 
feet long, he cut off and trimmed up with his large jack-knife. 


This done, he ordered me to take off my clothes. To this 
unreasonable order I made no reply, but in my apparent un- 
consciousness and inattention to this command I indicated 
very plainly a stern determination to do no such thing. 
"If you will beat me," thought I, "you shall do so 
over my clothes." After many threats, which made no 
impression upon me, he rushed at me with something of the 
savage fierceness of a wolf, tore off the few and thinly worn 
clothes I had on, and proceeded to wear out on my back the 
heavy goads which he had cut from the gum tree. This flog- 
ging was the first of a series of floggings, and though very 
severe, it was less so than many which came after it, and 
these for offences far lighter than the gate-breaking. 

I remained with Mr. Covey one year (I cannot say I lived 
with him), and during the first six months that I was there I 
was whipped, either with sticks or cow-skins, every week. 
Aching bones and a sore back were my constant companions. 
Frequent as the lash was used, Mr. Covey thought less of it 
as a means of breaking down my spirit than that of hard and 
continued labor. He worked me steadily up to the point of 
my powers of endurance. From the dawn of day in the 
morning till the darkness was complete in the evening I was 
kept at hard work in the field or the woods. At certain sea- 
sons of the year we were all kept in the field till eleven and 
twelve o'clock at night. At these times Covey would attend 
us in the field and urge us on with words or blows, as it 
seemed best to him. He had, in his life, been an overseer, 
and he well understood the business of slave-driving. There 
was no deceiving him. He knew just what a man or boy 
could do, and he held both to strict account. When he 
pleased he would work himself like a very Turk, making 
everything fly before him. It was, however, scarcely neces- 
sary for Mr. Covey to be really present in the field to have 
his work go on industriously. He had the faculty of making 
us feel that he was always present. By a series of adroitly 
managed surprises which he practiced, I was prepared to 


expect him at any moment. His plan was never to approach 
the spot where his hands were at work in an open, manly, 
and direct manner. No thief was ever more artful in his 
devices than this man Covey. He would creep and crawl in 
• ditches and gullies, hide behind stumps and bushes, and prac- 
tice so much of the cunning of the serpent, that Bill Smith 
and I, between ourselves, never called him by any other name 
than " the snake." We fancied that in his eyes and his gait 
we could see a snakish resemblance. One half of his profi- 
ciency in the art of negro-breaking consisted, I should think, 
in this species of cunning. We were never secure. He could 
see or hear us nearly all the time. He was to us behind every 
stump, tree, bush, and fence on the plantation. He carried 
this kind of trickery so far that he would sometimes mount 
his horse and make believe he was going to St. Michaels, and 
in thirty minutes afterwards you might find his horse tied in 
the woods, and the snake-like Covey lying flat in the ditch 
with his head lifted above its edge, or in a fence-corner, 
watching every movement of the slaves. I have known him 
walk up to us and give us special orders as to our work in 
advance, as if he were leaving home with a view to being 
absent several days, and before he got half way to the house 
he would avail himself of our inattention to his movements 
to turn short on his heel, conceal himself behind a fence cor- 
ner or a tree, and watch us until the going down of the sun. 
Mean and contemptible as is all this, it is in keeping with the 
character which the life of a slaveholder was calculated to 
produce. There was no earthly inducement in the slave's 
condition to incite him to labor faithfully. The fear of pun- 
ishment was the sole motive of any sort of industry with 
him. Knowing this fact as the slaveholder did, and judging 
the slave by himself, he naturally concluded that the slave 
would be idle whenever the cause for this fear was absent. 
Hence all sorts of petty deceptions were practiced to inspire 

But with Mr. Covey trickery was natural. Everything in 


the shape of learning or religion which he possessed was 
made to conform to this semi-lying propensity. He did not 
seem conscious that the practice had anything unmanly, base, 
or contemptible about it. It was a part of an important sys- 
tem with him, essential to the relation of master and slave. 
I thought I saw, in his very religious devotions, this control- 
ling element of his character. A long prayer at night made 
up for a short prayer in the morning, and few men could 
seem more devotional than he when he had nothing else 
to do. 

Mr. Covey was not content with the cold style of family 
worship adopted in the cold latitudes, which begin and end 
with a simple prayer. No ! the voice of praise as well as of 
prayer must be heard in his house night and morning. At 
first I was called upon to bear some part in these exercises ; 
but the repeated floggings given me turned the whole thing 
into mockery. He was a poor singer, and mainly relied on 
me for raising the hymn for the family, and when I failed to 
do so he was thrown into much confusion. I do not think he 
ever abused me on account of these vexations. His religion 
was a thing altogether apart from hi worldly concerns. He 
knew nothing of it as a holy principle directing and control- 
ling his daily life, making the latter conform to the require- 
ments of the gospel. One or two facts will illustrate his 
character better than a volume of generalities.- 

I have already implied that Mr. Edward Covey was a poor 
man. He was, in fact, just commencing to lay the foundation 
of his fortune, as fortune was regarded in a slave state. The 
first condition of wealth and respectability there being the 
ownership of human property, every nerve was strained by 
the poor man to obtain it, with little regard sometimes as to 
the means. In pursuit of this object, pious as Mr. Covey 
was, he proved himself as unscrupulous and base as the worst 
of his neighbors. In the beginning he was only able — as he 
said — " to buy one slave ; " and scandalous and shocking as 
is the fact, he boasted that he bought her simply "as a 


breeder." But the worst of this is not told in this naked 
statement. This young woman (Caroline was her name) was 
virtually compelled by Covey to abandon herself to the object 
for which he had purchased her ; and the result was the birth 
of twins at the end of the year. At this addition to his 
human stock Covey and his wife were ecstatic with joy. No 
one dreamed of reproaching the woman or of finding fault 
with the hired man, Bill Smith, the father of the children, 
for Mr. Covey himself had locked the two up together every 
night, thus inviting the result. 

But I will pursue this revolting subject no farther. No bet- 
ter illustration of the unchaste, demoralizing, and debasing 
character of slavery can be found, than is furnished in the 
fact that this professedly Christian slaveholder, amidst all his 
prayers and hymns, was shamelessly and boastfully encour- 
aging and actually compelling, in his own house, undisguised 
and unmitigated fornication, as a means of increasing his 
stock. It was the system of slavery which made this allow- 
able, and which condemned the slaveholder for buying a slave 
woman and devoting her to this life, no more than for buying 
a cow and raising stock from her, and the same rules were 
observed, with a view to increasing the number and quality of 
the one, as of the other. 

If at any one time in my life, more than another, I was 
made to drink the bitterest dregs of slavery, that time was 
during the first six months of my stay with this man Covey. 
We were worked all weathers. It was never too hot, or too 
cold ; it could never rain, blow, snow, or hail too hard for us 
to work in the field. Work, work, work, was scarcely more 
the order of the day than of the night. The longest days 
were too short for him, and the shortest nights were too long 
for him. I was somewhat unmanageable at the first, but a few 
months of this discipline tamed me. Mr. Covey succeeded in 
breaking me — in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity 
was crushed ; my intellect languished ; the disposition to read 
departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died 


out ; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me, and behold 
a man transformed to a brute ! 

Sunday was my only leisure time. I spent this in a sort of 
beast-like stupor, between sleeping and waking, under some 
large tree. At times I would rise up, a flash of energetic 
freedom would dart through my soul, accompanied with a 
faint beam of hope that flickered for a moment, and then van- 
ished. I sank down again, mourning over my wretched con- 
dition. I was sometimes tempted to take my life and that of 
Covey, but was prevented by a combination of hope and fear. 
My sufferings, as I remember them now, seem like a dream 
rather than a stern reality. 

Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake bay, 
whose broad bosom was ever white with sails from every 
quarter of the habitable globe. Those beautiful vessels, robed 
in white, and so delightful to the eyes of freemen, were to me 
so many shrouded ghosts, to terrify and torment me with 
thoughts of my wretched condition. I have often, in the deep 
stillness of a summer's Sabbath, stood all alone upon the 
banks of that noble bay, and traced, with saddened heart and 
tearful eye, the countle*ss number of sails moving off to the 
mighty ocean. The sight of these always affected me power- 
fully. My thoughts would compel utterance ; and there, with 
no audience but the Almighty, I would pour out my soul's 
complaint in my rude way with an apostrophe to the moving 
multitude of ships. 

" You are loosed from your moorings, and free. I am fast 
in my chains, and am a slave ! You move merrily before the 
gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip. You are free- 
dom's swift-winged angels, that fly around the world ; I am 
confined in bonds of iron. 0, that I were free ! 0, that I were 
on one of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wing! 
Alas ! betwixt me and you the turbid waters roll. Go on, go 
on ; 0, that I could also go ! Could I but swim ! If I could 
fly ! 0, why was 1 born a man, of whom to make a brute ! 
The glad ship is gone : she hides in the dim distance. I am 

I AM A SLATE. 141 

left in the hell of unending slavery. 0, God, save me ! God, 
deliver me ! Let me be free ! — Is there any God ? Why am 
I a slave ? I will run away. I will not stand it. Get caught 
or get clear, I'll try it. I had as well die with ague as with 
fever. I have only one life to lose. I had as well be killed 
running as die standing. Only think of it: one hundred 
miles north, and I am free ! Try it ? Yes ! God helping me, 
1 will. It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave. I will 
take to the water. This very bay shall yet bear me into free- 
dom. The steamboats steer in a northeast course from North 
Point ; I will do the same ; and when I get to the head of the 
bay, I will turn my canoe adrift, and walk straight through 
Delaware into Pennsylvania. When I get there I shall not 
be required to have a pass : I will travel there without being 
disturbed. Let but the first opportunity offer, and come what 
will, I am off. Meanwhile I will try to bear the yoke. I am 
not the only slave in the world. Why should I fret ? I can 
bear as much as any of them. Besides I am but a boy yet, 
and all boys are bound out to some one. It may be that my 
misery in slavery will only increase my happiness when I get 
free. There is a better day coming." 

I shall never be able to narrate half the mental experience 
though which it was my lot to pass, during my stay at Covey's. 
I was completely wrecked, changed, and bewildered ; goaded 
almost to madness at one time, and at another, reconciling 
myself to my wretched condition. All the kindness I had 
received at Baltimore, all my former hopes and aspirations 
for usefulness in the world, and even the happy moments 
spent in the exercises of religion, contrasted with my then 
present lot, served but to increase my anguish. 

I suffered bodily as well as mentally. I had neither suffi- 
cient time in which to eat, or to sleep, except on Sundays. 
The over-work, and the brutal chastisements of which I was 
the victim, combined with that ever-gnawing and soul-devour- 
ing thought — " I am a slave — a slave for life — a slave with no 
rational ground to hope for freedom " — rendered me a living 
embodiment of mental and physical wretchedness. 



Experience at Covey's summed up — First six months severer than the re- 
niaining six — Preliminaries to the change — Reasons for narrating: the cir- 
cumstances — Scene in the treading-yard — Author taken ill — Escapes to St. 
Michaels — The pursuit — Suffering in the woods — Talk with Master 
Thomas — His beating — Driven back to Covey's — The slaves never sick — 
Natural to expect them to feign sickness — Laziness of slaveholders. 

THE reader has but to repeat, in his mind, once a week the 
scene in the woods, where Covey subjected me to his merci- 
less lash, to have a true idea of my bitter experience, dur- 
ing the first six months of the breaking process through which 
he carried me. I have no heart to repeat each separate trans- 
action. Such a narration would fill a volume much larger 
than the present one. I aim only to give the reader a truth- 
ful impression of my slave-life, without unnecessarily affecting 
him with harrowing details. 

As I have intimated that my hardships were much greater 
during the first six months of my stay at Covey's than dur- 
ing the remainder of the year, and as the change in my con- 
dition was owing to causes which may help the reader to a 
better understanding of human nature, when subjected to the 
terrible extremities of slavery, I will narrate the circumstances 
of this change, although I may seem thereby to applaud my 
own courage. 

You have, dear reader, seen me humbled, degraded, broken 
down, enslaved, and brutalized ; and you understand how it 
was done ; now let us see the converse of all this, and how 
it was brought about; and this will take us through the 
year 1834. 

On one of the hottest days of the month of August, of the 
year just mentioned, had the reader been passing through 



Covey's farm, he might *have seen me at work in what was 
called the " treading-yard " — a yard upon which wheat was 
trodden out from the straw by the horses' feet. I was there 
at work feeding the " fan," or rather bringing wheat to the 
fan, while Bill Smith was feeding. Our force consisted of 
Bill Hughes, Bill Smith, and a slave by the name of Eli, the 
latter having been hired for the occasion. The work was 
simple, and required strength and activity, rather than any 
skill or intelligence ; and yet to one entirely unused to such 
work, it came very hard. The heat was intense and overpow- 
ering, and there was much hurry to get the wheat trodden out 
that day, through the fan ; since if that work was done an 
hour before sundown, the hands would have, according to a 
promise of Covey, that hour added to their night's rest. I 
was not behind any of them in the wish to complete the day's 
work before sundown, and hence I struggled with all my might 
to get it forward. The promise of one hour's repose on a 
week day was sufficient to quicken my pace, and to spur me 
on to extra endeavor. Besides, we had all planned to go fish- 
ing, and I certainly wished to have a hand in that. But I 
was disappointed, and the day turned out to be one of the 
bitterest I ever experienced. About three o'clock, while the 
sun was pouring down his burning rays, and not a breeze was 
stirring, I broke down ; my strength failed me ; I was seized 
with a violent aching of the head, attended with extreme 
dizziness, and trembling in every limb. Finding what was 
coming, and feeling it would never do to stop work, I nerved 
myself up, and staggered on, until I fell by the side of the 
wheat fan, with a feeling that the earth had fallen in upon me. 
This brought the entire work to a dead stand. There was 
work for four : each one had his part to perform, and each 
part depended on the other, so that when one stopped, all were 
compelled to stop. Covey, who had become my dread, was at 
the house, about a hundred yards from where I was fanning, 
and instantly, upon hearing the fan stop, he came down to the 
treading-yard to inquire into the cause of the stopping. Bill 


Smith told him I was sick, and that I was unable longer to 
bring wheat to the fan. 

I had by this time crawled away under the side of a post- 
and-rail fence in the shade, and was exceedingly ill. The 
intense heat of the sun, the heavy dust rising from the fan, 
the stooping to take up the wheat from the yard, together 
with the hurrying to get through, had caused a rush of blood 
to my head. In this condition Covey, finding out where I 
was, came to me ; and after standing over me a while he 
asked what the matter was. I told him as well as I could, 
for it was with difficulty that I could speak. He gave me a 
savage kick in the side which jarred my whole frame, and 
commanded me to get up. The monster had obtained complete 
control over me, and if he had commanded me to do any pos- 
sible thing I should, in my then state of mind, have endeav- 
ored to comply. I made an effort to rise, but fell back in the 
attempt before gaining my feet. He gave me another heavy 
kick, and again told me to rise. I again tried, and succeeded 
in standing up ; but upon stooping to get the tub with which 
I was feeding the fan I again staggered and fell to the ground ; 
and I must have so fallen had I been sure that a hundred 
bullets would have pierced me through as the consequence. 
While down in this sad condition, and perfectly helpless, the 
merciless negro-breaker took up the hickory slab with which 
Hughes had been striking off the wheat to a level with the 
sides of the half-bushel measure (a very hard weapon), and 
with the edge of it he dealt me a heavy blow on my head 
which made a large gash, and caused the blood to run freely, 
saying at the same time, " If you have got the headache I'll 
cure you." This done, he ordered me again to rise, but I 
made no effort to do so, for I had now made up my mind that 
it was useless, and that the heartless villain might do his 
worst, he could but kill me and that might put me out of my 
misery. Finding me unable to rise, or rather despairing of 
my doing so, Covey left me, with a view to getting on with 
the work without me. I was bleeding very freely, and my 


face was soon covered with my warm blood. Cruel and mer- 
ciless as was the motive that dealt that blow, the wound was 
a fortunate one for me. Bleeding was never more efficacious. 
The pain in my head speedily abated, and I was soon able to 
rise. Covey had, as I have said, left me to my fate, and the 
question was, shall I return to my work, or shall I find my 
way to St. Michaels and make Capt. Auld acquainted with 
the atrocious cruelty of his brother Covey and beseech him to 
get me another master ? Remembering the object he had in 
view in placing me under the management of Covey, and 
further, his cruel treatment of my poor crippled cousin Henny, 
and his meanness in the matter of feeding and clothing his 
slaves, there was little ground to hope for a favorable recep- 
tion at the hands of Capt. Thomas Auld. Nevertheless, I 
resolved to go straight to him, thinking that, if not animated 
by motives of humanity, he might be induced, to interfere on 
my behalf from selfish considerations. "He cannot," I 
thought, " allow his property to be thus bruised and battered, 
marred and defaced, and I will go to him about the matter." 
In order to get to St. Michaels by the most favorable and 
direct road I must walk seven miles, and this, in my sad con- 
dition, was no easy performance. I had already lost much 
blood, I was exhausted by over-exertion, my sides were sore 
from the heavy blows planted there by the stout boots of Mr. 
Covey, and I was in every way in an unfavorable plight for 
the journey. I however watched my chance while the cruel 
and cunning Covey was looking in an opposite direction, and 
started off across the field for St. Michaels. This was a dar- 
ing step. If it failed it would only exasperate Covey, and 
increase the rigors of my bondage during the remainder of 
my term of service under him ; but the step was taken, and I 
must go forward. I succeeded in getting nearly half way 
across the broad field toward the woods, when Covey observed 
me. I was still bleeding, and the exertion of running had 
started the blood afresh. " Come hack! Come back!" he 
vociferated, with threats of what he would do if I did not 


return instantly. But disregarding his calls and threats, I 
pressed on toward the woods as fast as my feeble state would 
allow. Seeing no signs of my stopping he caused his horse 
to be brought out and saddled, as if he intended to pursue me. 
The race was now to be an unequal one, and thinking I might 
be overhauled by him if I kept the main road I walked nearly 
the whole distance in the woods, keeping far enough from the 
road to avoid detection and pursuit. But I had not gone far 
before my little strength again failed me, and I was obliged 
to lie down. The blood was still oozing from the wound in 
my head, and for a time I suffered more than I can describe. 
There I was in the deep woods, sick and emaciated, pursued 
by a wretch whose character for revolting cruelty beggars all 
opprobrious speech, bleeding and almost bloodless. I was 
not without the fear of bleeding to death. The thought of 
dying in the woods all alone, and of being torn in pieces by 
the buzzards, had not yet been rendered tolerable by my many 
troubles and hardships, and I was glad when the shade of the 
trees and the cool evening breeze combined with my matted 
hair to stop the flow of blood. After lying there about three- 
quarters of an hour brooding over the singular and mournful 
lot to which I was doomed, my mind passing over the whole 
scale or circle of belief and unbelief, from faith in the over- 
ruling Providence of God, to the blackest atheism, I again 
took up my journey toward St. Michaels, more weary and sad 
than on the morning when I left Thomas Auld's for the home 
of Covey. I was bare-footed, bare-headed, and in my shirt 
sleeves. The way was through briers and bogs, and I tore 
my feet often during the journey. I was full five hours in 
going the seven or eight miles ; partly because of the difficul- 
ties of the way, and partly because of the feebleness induced 
by my illness, bruises, and loss of blood. 

On gaining my master's store, I presented an appearance of 
wretchedness and woe calculated to move any but a heart of 
stone. From the crown of my head to the sole of my feet, 
there were marks of blood. My hair was all clotted with dust 


and blood, and the back of my shirt was literally stiff with 
the same. Briers and thorns had scarred and torn my feet 
and legs. Had I escaped from a den of tigers, I could not 
have looked worse. In this plight I appeared before my pro- 
fessedly Christian master, humbly to invoke the interposition of 
his power and authority, to protect me from further abuse and 
violence. During the latter part of my tedious journey, I had 
begun to hope that my master would now show himself in a 
nobler light than I had before seen him. But I was dis- 
appointed. I had jumped from a sinking ship into the sea ; I 
had fled from a tiger to something worse. I told him all the 
circumstances, as well as I could : how I was endeavoring to 
please Covey ; how hard I was at work in the present instance ; 
how unwillingly I sank down under the heat, toil, and pain ; 
the brutal manner in which Covey had kicked me in the side, 
the gash cut in my head ; my hesitation about troubling him 
(Capt. Auld) with complaints ; but that now I felt it would 
not be best longer to conceal from him the outrages committed 
on me from time to time. At first Master Thomas seemed 
somewhat affected by the story of my wrongs, but he soon 
repressed whatever feeling he may have had, and became as 
cold and hard as iron. It was impossible, at first, as I stood 
before him, to seem indifferent. I distinctly saw his human 
nature asserting its conviction against the slave system, which 
made cases like mine possible ; but, as I have said, humanity 
fell before the systematic tyranny of slavery. He first walked 
the floor, apparently much agitated by my story, and the 
spectacle I presented ; but soon it was his turn to talk. He 
began moderately by finding excuses for Covey, and ended 
with a full justification of him, and a passionate condemna- 
tion of me. He had no doubt I deserved the flogging. He 
did not believe I was sick ; I was only endeavoring to get rid 
of work. My dizziness was laziness, and Covey did right to 
flog me as he had done. After thus fairly annihilating me, 
and arousing himself by his eloquence, he fiercely demanded 
what I wished him to do in the case ! With such a knock- 


down to all my hopes, and feeling as I did my entire subjec- 
tion to his power, I had very little heart to reply. I must not 
assert my innocence of the allegations he had piled up against 
me, for that would be impudence. The guilt of a slave was 
always and everywhere presumed, and the innocence of the 
slaveholder, or employer, was always asserted. The word of 
the slave against this presumption was generally treated as 
impudence, worthy of punishment. " Do you dare to contra- 
dict me, you rascal?" was a final silencer of counter-state- 
ments from the lips of a slave. Calming down a little, in view 
of my silence and hesitation, and perhaps a little touched at 
my forlorn and miserable appearance, he inquired again, what 
I wanted him to do ? Thus invited a second time, I told 
him I wished him to allow me to get a new home, and to find 
a new master ; that as sure as I went back to live again with 
Mr. Covey, I should be killed by him ; that he would never 
forgive my coming home with complaints ; that since I had 
lived with him he had almost crushed my spirit, and I be- 
lieved he would ruin me for future service, and that my life 
was not safe in his hands. This Master Thomas (my brother 
in the church') regarded as " nonsense." There was no dan- 
ger that Mr. Covey would kill me ; he was a good man, indus- 
trious and religious ; and he would not think of removing me 
from that home; "besides," said he — and this I found was the 
most distressing thought of all to him — " if you should leave 
Covey now that your year is but half expired, I should lose 
your wages for the entire year. You belong to Mr. Covey for 
one year, and you must go bach to him, come what will ; and 
you must not trouble me with any more stories ; and if you 
don't go immediately home, I'll get hold of you myself." This 
was just what I expected when I found he had prejudged the 
case against me. " But, sir," I said, " I am sick and tired, 
and I cannot get home to-night." At this he somewhat 
relented, and finally allowed me to stay the night, but said I 
must be off early in the morning, and concluded his directions 
by making me swallow a huge dose of Epsom salts, which was 
about the only medicine ever administered to slaves. 


It was quite natural for Master Thomas to presume I was 
feigning sickness to escape work, for he probably thought thaE 
were he in the place of a slave, with no wages for his work, 
no praise for well-doing, no motive for toil but the lash, he 
would try every possible scheme by which to escape labor. I 
say I have no doubt of this; the reason is, that there were 
not, under the whole heavens, a set of men who cultivated 
such a dread of labor as did the slaveholders. The charge of 
laziness against the slaves was ever on their lips, and was the 
standing apology for every species of cruelty and brutality. 
These men did indeed literally " bind heavy burdens, grievous 
to be borne, and laid them upon men's shoulders, but they 
themselves would not move them with one of their fingers." 



A sleepless night — Return to Covey's — Punished by him — The chase de- 
feated — Vengeance postponed — Musings in the woods — The alternative — 
Deplorable spec f acle — Night in the woods — Expected attack — Accosted 
by Sandy — A friend, not a master — Sandy's hospitality — The ash-cake 
supper — Interview with Sandy — His advice — Sandy a conjurer as well as 
a Christian — The magic root — Strange meeting with Covey — His manner 
— Covey's Sunday face — Author's defensive resolve — The fight — The vic- 
tory, and its results. 

SLEEP does not always come to the relief of the weary 
in body, and broken in spirit ; especially is it so when 
past troubles only foreshadow coming disasters. My last hope 
had been extinguished. My master, who I did not venture to 
hope would protect me as a man, had now refused to protect 
me as his property, and had cast me back, covered with 
reproaches and bruises, into the hands of one who was a 
stranger to that mercy which is the soul of the religion he 
professed. May the reader never know what it is to spend 
such a night as was that to me, which heralded my return to 
the den of horrors from which I had made a temporary 

I remained — sleep I did not — all night at St. Michaels, and 
in the morning (Saturday) I started off, obedient to the order 
of Master Thomas, feeling that I had no friend on earth, and 
doubting if I had one in heaven. I reached Covey's about 
nine o'clock ; and just as I stepped into the field, before I had 
reached the house, true to his snakish habits, Covey darted 
out at me from a fence corner, in which he had secreted him- 
self for the purpose of securing me. He was provided with 
a cowskin and a rope, and he evidently intended to tie me up, 
and wreak his vengeance on me to the fullest extent. I should 



have been an easy prey had he succeeded in getting his hands 
upon me, for I had taken no refreshment since noon on Fri- 
day ; and this, with the other trying circumstances, had greatly 
reduced my strength. I, however, darted back into the woods 
before the ferocious hound could reach me, and buried myself 
in a thicket, where he lost sight of me. The cornfield afforded 
me shelter in getting to the woods. But for the tall corn, 
Covey would have overtaken me, and made me his captive. 
He was much chagrined that he did not, and gave up the 
chase very reluctantly, as I could see by his angry movements, 
as he returned to the house. 

Well, now I am clear of Covey and his lash, for a little 
time. I am in the wood, buried in its somber gloom, and 
hushed in its solemn silence ; hidden from all human eyes, 
shut in with nature, and with nature's God, and absent from 
all human contrivances. Here was a good place to pray ; to 
pray for help, for deliverance — a prayer I had often made 
before. But how could I pray ? Covey could pray — Capt. 
Auld could pray. I would fain pray; but doubts arising, 
partly from my neglect of the means of grace, and partly from 
the sham religion which everywhere prevailed, cast in my mind 
a doubt upon all religion, and led me to the conviction that 
prayers were unavailing and delusive. 

Life in itself had almost become burdensome to me. All my 
outward relations were against me; I must stay here and 
starve, or go home to Covey's and have my flesh torn to pieces 
and my spirit humbled under the cruel lash of Covey. These 
were the alternatives before me. The day was long and irk- 
some. I was weak from the toils of the previous day, and 
from want of food and sleep, and I had been so little con- 
cerned about my appearance that I had not yet- washed the 
blood from my garments. I was an object of horror, even to 
myself. Life in Baltimore, when most oppressive, was a para- 
dise to this. What had I done, what had my parents done, 
that such a life as this should be mine ? That day, in the 
woods, I would have exchanged my manhood for the brute- 
hood of an ox. 


Night came. I was still in the woods, and still unresolved 
what to do. Hunger had not yet pinched me to the point of 
going home, and I laid myself down in the leaves to rest ; for 
I had been watching for hunters all day, but not being mo- 
lested by them during the day, I expected no disturbance 
from them during the night. I had come to the conclusion 
that Covey relied upon hunger to drive me home, and in this 
I was quite correct, for he made no effort to catch me after 
the morning. 

During the night I heard the step of a man in the woods. 
He was coming toward the place where I lay. A person lying 
still has the advantage over one walking in the woods in the 
day-time, and this advantage is much greater at night. I was 
not able to engage in a physical struggle, and I had recourse 
to the common resort of the weak. I hid myself in the leaves 
to prevent discovery. But as the night rambler in the woods 
drew nearer I found him to be a friend, not an enemy, a slave 
of Mr. William Groomes of Easton, a kind-hearted fellow 
named "Sandy." Sandy lived with Mr. Kemp that year, 
about four miles from St. Michaels. He, like myself, had 
been hired out that year, but unlike myself had not been hired 
out to be broken. He was the husband of a free woman who 
lived in the lower part of " Poppie Neck," and he was now on 
his way through the woods to see her and to spend the Sab- 
bath with her. 

As soon as I had ascertained that the disturber of my soli- 
tude was not an enemy, but the good-hearted Sandy — a man 
as famous among the slaves of the neighborhood for his good 
nature as for his good sense — I came out from my hiding- 
place and made myself known to him. I explained the cir- 
cumstances of the past two days which had driven me to the 
woods, and he deeply compassionated my distress. It was a 
bold thing for him to shelter me, and I could not ask him to 
do so, for had I been found in his hut he would have suffered 
the penalty of thirty-nine lashes on his bare back, if not some- 
thing worse. But Sandy was too generous to permit the fear 

Found in the Woods by Sandy 


of punishment to prevent his relieving a brother bondman 
from hunger and exposure, and therefore, on his o TO motion 
I accompanied him home to his wife—for the house and lot 
were hers as she was a free woman. It was about midnight, 
but his wife was called up, a fire was made, some Indian meal 
was soon mixed with salt and water, and an ash-cake was 

IT," 1 /,. 7 ' t0 reli0Ve my hun S er - Sandy's wife was 
not behind h.m in kindness ; both seemed to esteem it a priv- 
ilege to succor me, for although I was hated by Covey and bv 
my master I was loved by the colored people, because they 
thought I was hated for my knowledge, and persecuted be- 
cause I was feared. I was the only slave in that region who 
could read or write. There had been one other man, belong- 
ing to Mr. Hugh Hamilton, who could read, but he, poor fol- 
low, had shortly after coming into the neighborhood been 
sold off to the far south. I saw him ironed, in the cart, to 
be carried to Easton for sale, pinioned like a yearling for the 
slaughter My knowledge was now the pride of my brother 
slaves, and no doubt Sandy felt something of the general 
interest in me on that account. The supper was soon ready, 
and though I have since feasted with honorables, lord mayors 
and aldermen over the sea, my supper on ash-cake and cold' 
water, with Sandy, was the meal of all my life most sweet to 
my taste, and now most vivid to my memory 

Supper over Sandy and I went into a discussion of what 
was possible for me, under the perils and hardships which 
overshadowed my path. The question was, must I go back 
to Covey, or must I attempt to run away? Upon a careful 
survey the latter was found to be impossible; for I was on a 
narrow neck of land, every avenue from which would brin* 
me in sight of pursuers. There was Chesapeake Bay to the 
right, and « Pot-pie" river to the left, and St. Michaels and 
ite neighborhood occupied the only space through which 
there was any retreat. 

I found Sandy an old adviser. n e was not only a relMous 
man, but he professed to believe in a system for which I have 


no name. He was a genuine African, and had inherited some 
of the so-called magical powers said to be possessed by the 
eastern nations. He told me that he could help me ; that in 
those very woods there was an herb which in the morning 
might be found, possessing all the powers required for my 
protection (I put his words in my own language), and that if 
I would take his advice he would procure me the root of the 
herb of which he spoke. He told me, further, that if I would 
take that root and wear it on my right side it would be impos- 
sible for Covey to strike me a blow ; that with this root about 
my person no white man could whip me. He said he had 
carried it for years, and that he had fully tested its virtues. 
He had never received a blow from a slaveholder since he 
■ carried it, and he never expected to receive one, for he meant 
always to carry that root for protection. He knew Covey 
well, for Mrs. Covey was the daughter of. Mrs. Kemp ; and he 
(Sandy) had heard of the barbarous treatment to which I had 
been subjected, and he wanted to <lo something for me. 

Now all this talk about the root was to me very absurd and 
ridiculous, if not positively sinful. I at first rejected the idea 
that the simple carrying a root on my right side (a root, by 
the way, over which I walked every time I went into the 
woods) could possess any such magic power as he ascribed to 
it, and I was, therefore, not disposed to cumber my pocket 
with it. I had a positive aversion to all pretenders to " divi- 
nation." It was beneath one of my intelligence to counte- 
nance such dealings with the devil as this power implied. 
But with all my learning — it was really precious little — Sandy 
was more than a match for me. "My book-learning," he 
said, " had not kept Covey off me " (a powerful argument 
just then), and he entreated me, with flashing eyes, to try 
this. If it did me no good it could do me no harm, and it 
would cost me nothing any way. Sandy was so earnest and 
so confident of the good qualities of this weed that, to please 
him, 1 was induced to take it. He had been to me the good 
Samaritan, and had, almost providentially, found me and 


helped me when I could not help myself ; how did I know but 
that the hand of the Lord was in it ? With thoughts of this 
sort I took the roots from Sandy and put them in my right- 
hand pocket. 

This was of course Sunday morning. Sandy now urged 
me to go home with all speed, and to walk up bravely to the 
house, as though nothing had happened. I saw in Sandy too 
deep an insight into human nature, with all his superstition, 
not to have some respect for his advice ; and perhaps, too, a 
slight gleam or shadow of his superstition had fallen on me. 
At any rate, I started off toward Covey's as directed. Having, 
the previous night, poured my griefs into Sandy's ears and 
enlisted him in my behalf, having made his wife a sharer in 
my sorrows, and having also become well refreshed by sleep 
and food, I moved off quite courageously toward the dreaded 
Covey's. Singularly enough, just as I entered the yard gate 
I met him and his wife, dressed in their Sunday best, looking 
as smiling as angels, on their way to church. His manner 
perfectly astonished me. There was something really benig- 
nant in his countenance. He spoke to me as never before, 
told me that the pigs had got into the lot and he wished me 
to go to drive them out ; inquired how I was, and seemed an 
altered man. This extraordinary conduct really made me 
begin to think that Sandy's herb had more virtue in it than I, 
in my pride, had been willing to allow, and had the day been 
other than Sunday I should have attributed Covey's altered 
manner solely to the power of the root. I suspected, however, 
that the SaLbath, not the root, was the real explanation of the 
change. His religion hindered him from breaking the Sab- 
bath, but not from breaking my skin on any other day than 
Sunday. He had more respect for the day than for the man 
for whom the day was mercifully given ; for while he would 
cut and slash my body during the week, he would on Sunday 
teach me the value of my soul, and the way of life and salva- 
tion by Jesus Christ. 

All went well with me till Monday morning ; and then, 


whether the root had lost its virtue, or whether my tormentor 
had gone deeper into the black art than I had (as was some- 
times said of him), or whether he had obtained a special in- 
dulgence for his faithful Sunday's worship, it is not necessary 
for me to know or to inform the reader ; but this much I may 
say, the pious and benignant smile which graced the face of 
Covey on Sunday wholly disappeared on Monday. 

Long before daylight I was called up to go feed, rub, and 
curry the horses. I obeyed the call, as I should have done 
had it been made at an earlier hour, for I had brought my 
mind to a firm resolve during that Sunday's reflection to obey 
every order, however unreasonable, if it were possible, and if 
Mr. Covey should then undertake to beat me to defend and 
protect myself to the best of my ability. My religious views 
on the subject of resisting my master had suffered a serious 
shock by the savage persecution to which I had been subjected, 
and my hands were no longer tied by my religion. Master 
Thomas' indifference had severed the last link. I had back- 
slidden from this point in the slaves' religious creed, and I 
soon had occasion to make my fallen state known to my Sun- 
day-pious brother, Covey. 

While I was obeying his order to feed and get the horses 
ready for the field, and when I was in the act of going up 
the stable loft, for the purpose of throwing down some 
blades, Covey sneaked into the stable, in his peculiar way, 
and seizing me suddenly by the leg, he brought me to the 
stable-floor, giving my newly-mended body a terrible jar. I 
now forgot all about my roots, and remembered my pledge to 
stand up in my own defense. The brute was skilfully en- 
deavoring to get a slip-knot on my legs, before I could draw 
up my feet. As soon as I found what he was up to, I gave a 
sudden spring (my two days' rest had been of much service to 
me) and by that means, no doubt, he was able to bring me to 
the floor so heavily. He was defeated in his plan of tying 
me. While down, he seemed to think he had me very securely 
in his power. He little thought he was — as the rowdies say 


— " in " for a " rough and tumble " fight : but such was the 
fact. Whence came the daring spirit necessary to grapple 
with a man, who eight-and-forty hours before, could, with his 
slightest word, have made me tremble like a leaf in a storm, 
I do not know ; at any rate I was resolved to fight, and what 
was better still, I actually was hard at it. The fighting mad- 
ness had come upon me, and I found my strong fingers firmly 
attached to the throat of the tyrant, as heedless of conse- 
quences, at the moment, as if we stood as equals before the 
law. The very color of the man was forgotten. I felt supple 
as a cat, and was ready for him at every turn. Every blow 
of his was parried, though I dealt no blows in return. I was 
strictly on the defensive, preventing him from injuring me, 
rather than trying to injure him. I flung him on the ground 
several times when he meant to have hurled me there. 1 
held him so firmly by the throat that his blood followed my 
nails. He held me, and I held him. 

All was fair thus far, and the contest was about equal. My 
resistance was entirely unexpected, and Covey was taken all 
aback by it, and he trembled in every limb. "Are you going 
to resist, you scoundrel ? " said he. To which I returned a 
polite " yes, sir," steadily gazing my interrogator in the eye, 
to meet the first approach or dawning of the blow which I 
expected my answer would call forth. But the conflict did 
not long remain equal. Covey soon cried lustily for help ; 
not that I was obtaining any marked advantage over him, or 
was injuring him, but because he was gaining none over me, 
and was not able, single-handed, to conquer me. He called 
for his cousin Hughes to come to his assistance, and now the 
scene was changed. I was compelled to give blows, as well 
as to parry them, and since I was in anj* case to suffer for 
resistance, I felt (as the musty proverb goes) that I " might as 
well be hanged for an old sheep as a lamb." I was still 
defensive toward Covey, but aggressive toward Hughes, on 
whom at his first approach, I dealt a blow which fairly sick- 
ened him. He went on , bending over with pain, and mani- 


festing no disposition to come again within my reach. The 
poor fellow was in the act of trying to catch and tie my right 
hand, and while flattering himself with success, I gave him 
the kick which sent him staggering away in pain, at the same 
time that I held Covey with a firm hand. 

Taken completely by surprise, Covey seemed to have lost 
his usual strength and coolness. He was frightened, and 
stood puffing and blowing, seemingly unable to command 
words or blows. When he saw that Hughes was standing 
half bent with pain, his courage quite gone, the cowardly 
tyrant asked if I " meant to persist in my resistance.' , I told 
him I " did mean to resist, come what might ; that I had been 
treated like a brute during the last six months, and that I should 
stand it no longer." With that he gave me a shake, and 
attempted to drag me toward a stick of wood that was lying 
jiist outside the stable door. He meant to knock me down 
with it, but just as he leaned over to get the stick, I seized 
him with both hands, by the collar, and with a vigorous and 
sudden snatch, I brought my assailant harmlessly, his full 
length, on the not over clean ground, for we were now in the 
cow-yard. He had selected the place for the fight, and it was 
but right that he should have all the advantages of his own 

By this time Bill, the hired man, came home. He had been 
to Mr. Helmsley's to spend Sunday with his nominal wife. 
Covey and I had been at skirmishing from before daybreak 
till now, and the sun was now shooting his beams almost over 
the eastern woods, and we were still at it. I could not see 
where the matter was to terminate. He evidently was afraid 
to let me go, lest I should again make off to the woods, other- 
wise he would probably have obtained arms from the house 
to frighten me. Holding me, he called upon Bill to assist him. 
The scene here had something comic about it. Bill, who 
knew precisely what Covey wished him to do, affected ignor- 
ance, and pretended he did not know what to do. " What 
shall I do, Master Covey ? " said Bill. " Take hold of him !— 


take hold of him ! " said Covey. With a toss of his head, 
peculiar to Bill, he said, " indeed Master Covey, I want to go 
to work." "This is your work," said Covey; "take hold of 
him." Bill replied, with spirit: " My master hired me here to 
work, and not to help you whip Frederick." It was my turn 
to speak. " Bill," said I, " don't put your hands on me." To 
which he replied : " My God, Frederick, I ain't goin' to tech 
ye ; " and Bill walked off leaving Covey and myself to settle 
our differences as best we might. 

But my present advantage was threatened when I saw Car- 
oline (the slave woman of Covey) coming to the cow-yard to 
milk, for she was a powerful woman, and could have mastered 
me easily, exhausted as I was. 

As soon as she came near, Covey attempted to rally her to 
his aid. Strangely, and fortunately, Caroline was in no humor 
to take a hand in any such sport. We were all in open rebel- 
lion that morning. Caroline answered the command of her 
master "to take hold of me," precisely as Bill had done, but 
in her it was at far greater peril, for she was the slave of 
. Covey, and he could do what he pleased with her. It was not 
so with Bill, and Bill knew it. Samuel Harris, to whom Bill 
belonged, did not allow his slaves to be beaten, unless they 
were guilty of some crime which the law would punish. But 
poor Caroline, like myself, was at the mercy of the merciless 
Covey, nor did she escape the dire effects of her refusal : he 
gave her several sharp blows. 

At length (two hours had elapsed) the contest was given 
over. Letting go of me, puffing and blowing at a great rate, 
Covey said : " Now, you scoundrel, go to your work ; I would 
not have whipped you half so hard if you had not resisted." 
The fact was, he had not whipped me at all. He had not in 
all the scuffle, drawn a single drop of blood from me. I had 
drawn blood from him, and should even without this satisfac- 
tion have been victorious, because my aim had not been to 
injure him, but to prevent his injuring me. 
During the whole six months I lived with Covey after this 


transaction, he never again laid the weight of his finger on 
me in anger. He would occasionally say he did not want to 
have to get hold of me again — a declaration which I had no 
difficulty in believing ; and I had a secret feeling which an- 
swered, " you had better not wish to get hold of me again, for 
you will be likely to come off worse in a second fight than 
you did in the first." 

Well, my dear reader, this battle with Mr. Covey, undigni- 
fied as it was, and as I fear my narration of it is, was the 
turning-point in my " life as a slave." It rekindled in my 
breast the smouldering embers of liberty ; it brought up my 
Baltimore dreams, and revived a sense of my own manhood. 
I was a changed being after that fight. I was nothing before; 
Iwas a man now. It recalled to life my crushed self-respect, 
and my self-confidence, and inspired me with a renewed 
determination to be a free man. A man without force is 
without the essential dignity of humanity. Human nature 
is so constituted, that it cannot honor a helpless man, though 
it can pity him, and even this it cannot do long if signs of 
power do not arise. 

He only can understand the effect of this combat on my 
spirit, who has himself incurred something, hazarded some- 
thing, in repelling the unjust and cruel aggressions of a tyrant. 
Covey was a tyrant, and a cowardly one withal. After resist- 
ing him, I felt as I never felt before. It was a resurrection 
from the dark and pestiferous tomb of slavery, to the heaven of 
comparative freedom. I was no longer a servile coward, 
trembling under the frown of a brother worm of the dust, but 
my long-cowed spirit was roused to an attitude of independ- 
ence. I had reached the point at which I was not afraid to 
die. This spirit made me a freeman in fact, though I still 
remained a slave in form. When a slave cannot be flogged, 
he is more than half free. He lias a domain as broad as his 
own manly heart to defend, and he is really " a power on 
earth." From this time until my escape from slavery, I was 
never fairly whipped. Several attempts were made, but they 


were always unsuccessful. Bruises I did get, but the instance I 
have described was the end of the brutification to which slav- 
ery had subjected me. 

The reader may like to know why, after I had so grievously 
offended Mr. Covey, he did not have me taken in hand by the 
authorities ; indeed, why the law of Maryland, which assigned 
hanging to the slave who resisted his master, was not put in 
force against me ; at any rate why I was not taken up, as was 
usual in such cases, and publicly whipped, as an example to 
other slaves, and as a means of deterring me from committing 
the same offense again. I confess that the easy manner in 
which I got off was always a surprise to me, and even now I 
cannot fully explain the cause, though the probability is that 
Covey was ashamed to have it known that he had been mas- 
tered by a boy of sixteen. He enjoyed the unbounded and 
very valuable reputation of being a first-rate overseer and 
negro-breaker, and by means of this reputation he was able 
to procure his hands at very trifling compensation and with 
very great ease. His interest and his pride would mutually 
suggest the wisdom of passing the matter by in silence. The 
story that he had undertaken to whip a lad and had been re- 
sisted, would of itself be damaging to him in the estimation 
of slaveholders. 

It is perhaps not altogether creditable to my natural temper 
that after this conflict with Mr. Covey I did, at times, pur- 
posely aim to provoke him to an attack, by refusing to keep 
with the other hands in the field, but I could never bully him 
to another battle. I was determined on doing him serious 
damage if he ever again attempted to lay violent hands on me. 

" Hereditary bondmen know ye not 
Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow I " 



Change of masters — Benefits derived by change — Fame of the fight with 
Covey — Reckless unconcern — Author's abhorrence of slavery — Ability to 
read a cause of prejudice — The holidaj r s — How spent — Sharp hit at 
slavery — Effects of holidays — Difference between Covey and Freeland — 
An irreligious master preferred to a religious one — Hard life at Covey's 
useful to the author — Improved condition does not bring contentment — 
Congenial society at Freeland's — Author's Sabbath-school — Secresy neces- 
sary — Affectionate relations of tutor and pupils — Confidence and friend- 
ship among slaves — Slavery the inviter of vengeance. 

MY term of service with Edward Covey expired on 
Christmas day, 1834. I gladly enough left him, al- 
though he was by this time as gentle as a lamb. My home 
for the year 1835 was already secured, my next master se- 
lected. There was always more or less excitement about the 
changing of hands, but I had become somewhat reckless and 
cared little into whose hands I fell, determined to fight my 
way. The report got abroad that I was hard to whip, that I 
was guilty of kicking back, that though generally a good- 
natured negro, I sometimes " got the devil in me." These 
sayings were rife in Talbot County, and they distinguished 
me among my servile brethren. Slaves would sometimes 
fight with each other, and even die at each other's hands, but 
there were very few who were not held in awe by a white 
man. Trained from the cradle up to think and feel that their 
masters were superior, and invested with a sort of sacredness, 
there were few who could rise above the control which that 
sentiment exercised. I had freed myself from it, and the 
thing was known. One bad sheep will spoil a whole flock. 
I was a bad sheep. I hated slavery, slaveholders, and all 
pertaining to them ; and I did not fail to inspire others with 



the same feeling wherever and whenever opportunity was pre- 
sented. This made me a marked lad among the slaves, and 
a suspected one among slaveholders. A knowledge of my 
ability to read and write got pretty widely spread, which was 
very much against me. 

The days between Christmas day and New Year's were 
allowed the slaves as holidays. During these days all regular 
work was suspended, and there was nothing to do but to keep 
fires and look after the stock. We regarded this time as our 
own by the grace of our masters, and we therefore used it or 
' abused it as we pleased. Those who had families at a dis- 
tance were expected to visit them and spend with them the 
entire week. The younger slaves or the unmarried ones were 
expected to see to the cattle, and to attend to incidental duties 
at home. The holidays were variously spent. The sober, 
thinking, industrious ones would employ themselves in man- 
ufacturing corn brooms, mats, horse collars, and baskets, and 
some of these were very well made. Another class spent 
their time in hunting opossums, coons, rabbits, and other 
game. But the majority spent the holidays in sports, ball- 
playing,, wrestling, boxing, running foot-races, dancing, and 
drinking whiskey ; and this latter mode was generally most 
agreeable to their masters. A slave who would work during: 
the holidays was thought by his master undeserving of holi- 
days. There was in this simple act of continued work an 
accusation against slaves, and a slave could not help thinkimg 
that if he made three dollars during the holidays he might 
make three hundred during the year. Not to be drunk during 
the holidays was disgraceful. 

The fiddling, dancing, and "jubilee beating" was carried 
on in all directions. This latter performance was strictly 
southern. It supplied the place of violin, or of other musical 
instruments, and was played so easily that almost every farm 
had its " Juba " beater. The performer improvised as he beat 
the instrument, marking the words as he sang so as to have 
them fall pat with the movement of his hands. Among a 


mass of nonsense and wild frolic, once in a while a sharp hit 
was given to the meanness of slaveholders. Take the follow- 
ing for example : 

We raise de wheat, We peel de meat, 

Dey gib us de corn ; Dey gib us de skin ; 

We bake de bread, And dat's de way 

Dey gib us de crust ; Dey take us in ; 

We sif de meal, We skim de pot, 

Dey gib us de huss ; Dey give us de liquor, 

And say dat's good enough for nigger. 

Walk over! walk over I 

Your butter and de fat; 

Poor nigger you cant get over dat 
Walk over — 

This is not a bad summary of the palpable injustice and 
fraud of slavery, giving, as it does, to the lazy and idle the 
comforts which God designed should be given solely to the 
honest laborer. But to the holidays. Judging from my own 
observation and experience, I believe those holidays were 
among the most effective means in the hands of slaveholders 
of keeping down the spirit of insurrection among the slaves. 

To enslave men successfully and safely it is necessary to 
keep their minds occupied with thoughts and aspirations short 
of the liberty of which they are deprived. A certain degree 
of attainable good must be kept before them. These holidays 
served the purpose of keeping the minds of the slaves occu- 
pied with prospective pleasure within the limits of slavery. 
The young man could go wooing, the married man to see his 
wife, the father and mother to see their children, the indus- 
trious and money -loving could make a few dollars, the great 
wrestler could win laurels, the young people meet and enjoy 
each other's society, the drunken man could get plenty of 
whiskey, and the religious man could hold prayer-meetings, 
preach, pray, and exhort. Before the holidays there were 
pleasures in prospect ; after the holidays they were pleasures 
of memory, and they served to keep out thoughts and wishes 
of a moro dangerous character. These holidays were also 


sort of conductors or safety-valves, to carry off the explosive 
elements inseparable from the human mind when reduced to 
the condition of slavery. But for these the rigors of bondage 
would have become too severe for endurance, and the slave 
would have been forced up to dangerous desperation. 

Thus they became a part and parcel of the gross wrongs 
and inhumanity of slavery. Ostensibly they were institutions 
of benevolence designed to mitigate the rigors of slave life, 
but practically they were a fraud instituted by human selfish- 
ness, the better to secure the ends of injustice and oppression. 
The slave's happiness was not the end sought, but the mas- 
ter's safety. It was not from a generous unconcern for the 
slave's labor, but from a prudent regard for the slave system. 
I am strengthened in this opinion from the fact that most slave- 
holders liked to have their slaves spend the holidays in such 
manner as to be of no real benefit to them. Everything like 
rational enjoyment was frowned upon, and only those wild 
and low sports- peculiar to semi-civilized people were encour- 
aged. The license allowed appeared to have no other object than 
to disgust the slaves with their temporary freedom, and to make 
them as glad to return to their work as they were to leave it. 
I have known slave-holders resort to cunning tricks, with a 
view of getting their slaves deplorably drunk. The usual 
plan was to make bets on a slave that he could drink more 
whisky than any other, and so induce a rivalry among them 
for the mastery in this degradation. The scenes brought 
about in this way were often scandalous and loathsome in the 
extreme. Whole multitudes might be found stretched out in 
brutal drunkenness, at once helpless and disgusting. Thus, 
when the slave asked for hours of " virtuous liberty," his cun- 
ning master took advantage of his ignorance and cheered him 
with a dose of vicious and revolting dissipation artfully labeled 
with the name of " liberty." 

We were induced to drink, I among the rest, and when the 
holidays were over we all staggered up from our filth and 
wallowing, took a long breath, and went away to our varioui 


fields of work, feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go from 
that which our masters had artfully deceived us into the belief 
was freedom, back again to the arms of slavery. It was not 
what we had taken it to be, nor what it would have been, had 
it not been abused by us. It was about as well to be a slave 
to master, as to be a slave to whisky and rum. When the 
slave was drunk the slaveholder had no fear that he would 
plan an insurrection, no fear that he would escape to the North. 
It was the sober, thoughtful slave who was dangerous, and 
needed the vigilance of his master to keep him a slave. But 
to proceed with my narrative. 

On the first of January, 1835, 1 proceeded from St. Michaels 
to Mr. William Freeland's — my new home. Mr. Freeland 
lived only three miles from St. Michaels, on an old, worn-out 
farm, which required much labor to render it anything like a 
self-supporting establishment. 

I found Mr. Freeland a different man from Covey. Though 
not rich, he was what might have been called a well-bred 
Southern gentleman. Though a slaveholder and sharing in 
common with them many of the vices of his class, he seemed 
alive to the sentiment of honor, and had also some sense of 
justice, and some feelings of humanity. He was fretful, im- 
pulsive, and passionate, but free from the mean and selfish 
characteristics which distinguished the creature from which I 
had happily escaped. Mr. Freeland was open, frank, impera- 
tive, and practiced no concealments, and disdained to play the 
spy ; in all these qualities the opposite of Covey. 

My poor weather-beaten bark now reached smoother water 
and gentler breezes. My stormy life at Covey's had been of 
service to me. The things that would have seemed very hard 
had I gone direct to Mr. Freeland's from the home of Master 
Thomas were now " trifles light as air." I was still a field- 
hand, and had come to prefer the severe labor of the field to 
the enervating duties of a house-servant. I had become large 
and strong, and had begun to take pride in the fact that I 
could do as much hard work as some of the older men. There 


was much rivalry among slaves at times as to which could do 
the most work, and masters generally sought to promote such 
rivalry. But some of us were too wise to race with each other 
very long. Such racing, we had the sagacity to see, was not 
likely to pay. We had our times for measuring each other's 
strength, but we knew too much to keep up the competition 
so long as to produce an extraordinary day's work. We knew 
that if by extraordinary exertion a large quantity of work 
was done in one day, becoming known to the master, it might 
lead him to require the same amount every day. This thought 
was enough to bring us to a dead halt when ever so much 
excited for the race. 

At Mr. Freeland's my condition was every way inproved. 
I was no longer the scapegoat that I was when at Covey's, 
where every wrong thing done was saddled upon me, and 
where other slaves were whipped over my shoulders. Bill 
Smith was protected by a positive prohibition, made by his 
rich master (and the command of the rich slaveholder was 
law to the poor one). Hughes was favored by his relationship 
to Covey, and the hands hired temporarily escaped flogging. 
I was the general pack-horse ; but Mr. Freeland held every 
man individually responsible for his own conduct. Mr. Free- 
land, like Mr. Covey, gave his hands enough to eat, but, unlike 
Mr. Covey, he gave them time to take their meals. He worked 
us hard during the day, but gave us the night for rest. We 
were seldom in the field after dark in the evening, or before 
sunrise in the morning. Our implements of husbandry were 
of the most improved pattern, and much superior to those 
used at Covey's. 

Notwithstanding all the improvement in my relations, not- 
withstanding the many advantages I had gained by my new 
home and my new master, I was still restless and discon- 
tented. I was about as hard to please by a master as a mas- 
ter is by a slave. The freedom from bodily torture and 
unceasing labor had given my mind an increased sensibility, 
and imparted to it greater activity. I was not yet exactly in 


right relations. " Howbeit, that was not first which is spirit- 
ual, but that which is natural, and afterward that which is 
spiritual." When entombed at Covey's, shrouded in darkness 
and physical wretchedness, temporal well-being was the grand 
desideratum ; but, temporal wants supplied, the spirit puts in 
its claims. Beat and cuff your slave, keep him hungry and 
spiritless, and he will follow the chain of his master like a 
dog ; but feed and clothe him well, work him moderately, sur- 
round him with physical comfort, and dreams of freedom 
intrude. Give him a 'bad master, and he aspires to a good 
master ; give him a good master and he wishes to become his 
own master. Such is human nature. You may hurl a man 
so low beneath the level of his kind, that he loses all just 
ideas of his natural position, but elevate him a little, and the 
clear conception of rights rises to life and power, and leads 
him onward. Thus elevated a little at Freeland's, the dreams 
called into being by that good man, Father Lawson, when in 
Baltimore, began to visit me again ; shoots from the tree of 
liberty began to put forth buds, and dim hopes of the future 
began to dawn. 

I found myself in congenial society. There were Henry 
Harris, John Harris, Handy Caldwell, and Sandy Jenkins 
(this last, of the root-preventive memory.) 

Henry and John Harris were brothers, and belonged to Mr. 
Freeland. They were both remarkably bright and intelligent, 
though neither of them could read. Now for mischief! I 
had not been long here before I was up to my old tricks. I 
began to address my companions on the subject of education, 
and the advantages of intelligence over ignorance, and, as far 
as I dared, I tried to show the agency of ignorance in keeping 
men in slavery. Webster's spelling-book and the Columbian 
Orator were looked into again. As summer came on, and the 
long Sabbath days stretched themselves over our idleness, I 
became uneasy, and wanted a Sabbath-school, where to exer- 
cise my gifts, and to impart the little knowledge I possessed 
to my brother-slaves. A house was hardly necessary in the 


summer time ; I could hold my school under the shade of an 
old oak tree as well as anywhere else. The thing was to get the 
scholars, and to have them thoroughly imbued with the desire 
to learn. Two such boys were quickly found in Henry and 
John, and from them the contagion spread. I was not long 
in bringing around me twenty or thirty young men, who en- 
rolled themselves gladly in my Sabbath-school, and were will- 
ing to meet me regularly under the trees or elsewhere, for the 
purpose of learning to read. It was surprising with what 
ease they provided themselves with spelling-books. These were 
mostly the cast-off books of their young masters or mistresses. 
I taught at first on our own farm. All were impressed with 
the necessity of keeping the matter as private as possible, for 
the fate of the St. Michaels attempt was still fresh in the 
minds of all. Our pious masters at St. Michaels must not 
know that a few of their dusky brothers were learning to read 
the Word of God, lest they should come down upon us with 
the lash and chain. We might have met to drink whisky, to 
wrestle, fight, and to do other unseemly things, with no fear 
of interruption from the saints or the simiers of St. Michaels. 
But to meet for the purpose of improving the mind and heart, 
by learning to read the sacred scriptures, was a nuisance to 
be instantly stopped. The slaveholders there, like slavehold- 
ers elsewhere, preferred to see the slaves engaged in degrad- 
ing sports, rather than acting like moral and accountable 
beings. Had any one asked a religious white man in St. 
Michaels at that time the names of three men in that town 
whose lives were most after the pattern of our Lord and Mas- 
ter Jesus Christ, the reply would have been : Garrison West, 
class-leader, Wright Fairbanks, and Thomas Auld, both also 
class-leaders ; and yet these men ferociously rushed in upon 
my Sabbath-school, armed witli mob-like missiles, and forbade 
our meeting again on pain of having our backs subjected to 
the bloody lash. This same Garrison West was my class- 
leader, and I had thought him a Christian until he took part 
in breaking up my school. He led me no more after that. 
The plea for this outrage was then, as it is always, the 


tyrant's plea of necessity. If the slaves learned to read they 
would learn something more and something worse. The 
peace of slavery would be disturbed ; slave rule would be 
endangered. I do not dispute the soundness of the reasoning. 
If slavery were right, Sabbath-schools for teaching slaves to 
read were wrong, and ought to have been put down. These 
christian class-leaders were, to this extent, consistent. They 
had settled the question that slavery was right, and by that 
standard they determined that Sabbath-schools were wrong. 
To be sure they were Protestant, and held to the great prot- 
estant right of every man to " search the Scriptures " for him- 
self ; but then, to all general rules there are exceptions. How 
convenient ! What crimes may not be committed under such 
ruling ! But my dear class-leading Methodist brethren did 
not condescend to give me a reason for breaking up the school 
at St. Michaels ; they had determined its destruction, and 
that was enough. However, I am digressing. 

After getting the school nicely started a second time, hold- 
ing it in the woods behind the barn, and in the shade of trees, 
I succeeded in inducing a free colored man who lived several 
miles from our house to permit me to hold my school in a 
room at his house. He incurred much peril in doing so, for 
the assemblage was an unlawful one. I had at one time more 
than forty scholars, all of the right sort, and many of them 
succeeded in learning to read. I have had various employ- 
ments during my life, but I look back to none with more sat- 
isfaction. An attachment, deep and permanent, sprung up 
between me and my persecuted pupils, which made my part- 
ing from them intensely painful. 

Besides my Sunday-school, I devoted three evenings a week 
to my other fellow slaves during the winter. Those dear 
souls who came to my Sabbath-school came not because it 
was popular or reputable to do so, for they came with a liabil- 
ity of having forty stripes laid on their naked backs. In this 
Christian country men and women were obliged to hide in 
barns and woods and trees from professing Christians, in 
order to learn to read the Holy Bible, Their minds had been 


cramped and starved by their cruel masters ; the light of edu- 
cation had been completely excluded, and their hard earnings 
had been taken to educate their master's children. I felt a 
delight in circumventing the tyrants, and in blessing victims 
of their curses. 

The year at Mr. Freeland's passed off very smoothly, to 
outward seeming. Not a blow was given me during the whole 
year. To the credit of Mr. Freeland, irreligious though he 
was, it must be stated that he was the best master I ever had 
until I became my own master and assumed for myself, as I 
had a right to do, the responsibility of my own existence and 
the exercise of my own powers. 

For much of the happiness, or absence of misery, with 
which I passed this year, I am indebted to the genial temper 
and ardent friendship of my brother slaves. They were every 
one of them manly, generous, and brave ; yes, I say they 
were brave, and I will add fine looking. It is seldom the lot 
of any to have truer and better friends than were the slaves 
on this farm. It was not uncommon to charge slaves with 
great treachery toward each other, but I must say I never 
loved, esteemed, or confided in men more than I did in these. 
They were as true as steel, and no band of brothers could be 
more loving. There were no mean advantages taken of each 
other, no tattling, no giving each other bad names to Mr. 
Freelandj and no elevating one at the expense of the other. 
We never undertook anything of any importance which was 
likely to affect each other, without mutual consultation. We 
were generally a unit, and moved together. Thoughts and 
sentiments were exchanged between us which might well have 
been considered incendiary had they been known by our mas- 
ters. The slave-holder, were he kind or cruel, was a slave- 
holder still, the every-hour-violator of the just and inalienable 
rights of man, and he was therefore every hour silently but 
surely whetting the knife of vengeance for his own throat. 
He never lisped a syllable in commendation of the fathers of 
this republic without inviting the sword, and asserting the 
right of rebellion for his own slaves. 



New Year's thoughts and meditations — Again hired by Freeland— Kindness 
no compensation for slavery — Incipient steps toward escape — Considera- 
tions leading thereto — Hostility to slavery — Solemn vow taken — Plan 
divulged to slaves — Columbian Orator again — Scheme gains favor — Dan- 
ger of discovery — Skill of slave-holders — Suspicion and coercion — Hymns 
with double meaning — Consultation — Pass-word — Hope and fear— Ignor- 
ance of Geography — Imaginary difficulties — Patrick Heury — Sandy a 
dreamer — Route to the north mapped out — Objections — Frauds — Passes 
— Anxieties — Fear of failure — Strange presentiment — Coincidence — Be- 
trayal — Arrests — Resistance — Mrs. Freeland — Prison — Brutal jests — 
Passes eaten — Denial — Sandy — Dragged behind horses — Slave-traders — 
Alone in prison — Sent to Baltimore. 

I AM now at the beginning of the year 1836, when the mind 
naturally occupies itself with the mysteries of life in all 
its phases — the ideal, the real, and the actual. Sober people 
look both ways at the beginning of a new year, surveying the 
errors of the past, and providing against the possible errors 
of the future. I, too, was thus exercised. I had little pleas- 
ure in retrospect, and the future prospect was not brilliant. 
" Notwithstanding," thought I, " the many resolutions and 
prayers I have made in behalf of freedom, I am, this first 
day of the year 1836, still a slave, still wandering in the 
depths of a miserable bondage. My faculties and powers of 
body and soul are not my own, but are the property of a fel- 
low-mortal in no sense superior to me, except that he has the 
physical power to compel me to be owned and controlled by 
him. By the combined physical force of the community I 
am his slave — a slave for life." With thoughts like these I 
was chafed and perplexed, and they rendered me gloomy and 
disconsolate. The anguish of my mind cannot be written. 
At the close of the year, Mr. Freeland renewed the pur- 



chase of my services of Mr. Auld for the coming year. LTis 
promptness in doing so would have been flattering to my 
vanity had I been ambitious to win the reputation of being a 
valuable slave. Even as it was, I felt a slight degree of com- 
placency at the circumstance. It showed him to be as well 
pleased with me as a slave as I with him as a master. But 
the kindness of the slave-master only gilded the chain, it de- 
tracted nothing from its weight or strength. The thought 
that men are made for other and better uses than slavery 
throve best under the gentle treatment of a kind master. Its 
grim visage could assume no smiles able to fascinate the par- 
tially enlightened slave into a forgetfulness of his bondage, 
or of the desirableness of liberty. 

I was not through the first month of my second year with 
the kind and gentlemanly Mr. Freeland before I was earnestly 
considering and devising plans for gaining that freedom 
which, when I was but a mere child, I had ascertained to be 
the natural and inborn right of every member of the human 
family. The desire for this freedom had been benumbed 
while I was under the brutalizing dominion of Covey, and it 
had been postponed and rendered inoperative by my truly 
pleasant Sunday-school engagements with my friends during 
the year at Mr. Freeland's. It had, however, never entirely 
subsided. I hated slavery always, and my desire for freedom 
needed only a favorable breeze to fan it to a blaze at any 
moment. The thought of being only a creature of the present 
and the past troubled me, and I longed to have a future — a 
future with hope in it. To be shut up entirely to the past 
and present is to the soul whose life and happiness is unceas- 
ing progress — what the prison is to the body — a blight and 
mildew, a hell of horrors. The dawning of this, another 
year, awakened me from my temporary slumber, and roused 
into life my latent but long-cherished aspirations for freedom. 
I became not only ashamed to be contented in slavery, but 
ashamed to seem to be contented, and in my present favorable 
condition under the mild rule of Mr. Freeland, I am not sure 


that some kind reader will not condemn me for being over- 
ambitious, and greatly wanting in humility, when I say the 
truth, that I now drove from me all thoughts of making the 
best of my lot, and welcomed only such thoughts as led me 
away from the house of bondage. The intensity of my desire 
to be free, quickened by my present favorable circumstances, 
brought me to the determination to act as well as to think 
and speak. Accordingly, at the beginning of this year 1836, 
I took upon me a solemn vow, that the year which had just 
now dawned upon me should not close without witnessing an 
earnest attempt, on my part, to gain my liberty. This vow 
only bound me to make good my own individual escape, but 
my friendship for my brother-slaves was so affectionate and 
confiding that I felt it my duty, as well as my pleasure, to 
give them an opportunity to share in my determination. 
Toward Henry and John Harris I felt a friendship as strong 
as one man can feel for another, for I could have died with 
and for them. To them, therefore, with suitable caution, I 
began to disclose my sentiments and plans, sounding them 
the while on the subject of running away, provided a good 
chance should offer. I need not say that I did my very best 
to imbue the minds of my dear friends with my own views 
and feelings. Thoroughly awakened now, and with a definite 
vow upon me, all my little reading which had any bearing on 
the subject of human rights was rendered available in my 
communications with my friends. That gem of a book, the 
Columbian Orator, with its eloquent orations and spicy dia- 
logues denouncing oppression and slavery — telling what had 
been dared, done, and suffered by men, to obtain the inesti- 
mable boon of liberty, was still fresh in my memory, and 
whirled into the ranks of my speech with the aptitude of well- 
trained soldiers going through the drill. I here began my 
public speaking. I canvassed with Henry and John the sub- 
ject of slavery, and dashed against it the condemning brand 
of God's eternal justice. My fellow-servants were neither 
indifferent, dull, nor inapt. Our feelings were more alike 


than our opinions. All, however, were ready to act when a 
feasible plan should be proposed. " Show us how the thing 
is to be done," said they, " and all else is clear." 

We were all, except Sandy, quite clear from slaveholding 
priestcraft. It was in vain that we had been taught from the 
pulpit at St. Michaels the duty of obedience to our masters ; 
to recognize God as the author of our enslavement ; to regard 
running away an offense, alike against God and man ; to deem 
our enslavement a merciful and beneficial arrangement ; to 
esteem our condition in this country a paradise to that from 
which we had been snatched in Africa ; to consider our hard 
hands and dark color as God's displeasure, and as pointing us 
out as the proper subjects of slavery ; that the relation of 
master and slave was one of reciprocal benefits ; that our 
work was not more serviceable to our masters than our mas- 
ter's thinking was to us. I say it was in vain that the pulpit 
of St. Michaels had constantly inculcated these plausible doc- 
trines. Nature laughed them to scorn. For my part, I had 
become altogether too big for my chains. Father Lawson's 
solemn words of what I ought to be, and what I might be in the 
providence of God, had not fallen dead on my soul. I was 
fast verging toward manhood, and the prophesies of my child- 
hood were still unfulfilled. The thought that year after year 
had passed away, and my best resolutions to run away had 
failed and faded, that I was still a slave, with chances for 
gaining my freedom diminished and still diminishing — was not 
a matter to be slept over easily. But here came a trouble. 
Such thoughts and purposes as I now cherished could not 
agitate the mind long without making themselves manifest to 
scrutinizing and unfriendly observers. I had reason to fear 
that my sable face might prove altogether too transparent for 
the safe concealment of my hazardous enterprise. Plans of 
great moment have leaked through stone walls, and revealed 
their projectors. But here was no stone wall to hide my pur- 
pose. I would have given my poor tell-tale face for the im- 
movable countenance of an Indian, for it was far from proof 
against the daily searching glances of those whom I met. 


It was the interest and business of slaveholders to study 
human nature, and the slave nature in particular, with a view 
to practical results ; and many of them attained astonishing 
proficiency in this direction. They had to deal not with 
earth, wood, and stone, bat with men ; and by every regard 
they had for their safety and prosperity they had need to 
know the material on which they were to work. So much 
intellect as the slaveholder had round him required watching. 
Their safety depended on their vigilance. Conscious of the 
injustice and wrong they were every hour perpetrating, and 
knowing what they themselves would do if they were victims 
of such wrongs, they were constantly looking out for the first 
signs of the dread retribution. They watched, therefore, with 
skilled and practiced eyes, and learned to read, with great 
accuracy, the state of mind and heart of the slave through 
his sable face. Unusual sobriety, apparent abstraction, sullen- 
ness, and indifference, — indeed, any mood out of the common 
way, — afforded ground for suspicion and inquiry. Relying 
on their superior position and wisdom, they would often hec- 
tor the slave into a confession by affecting to know the truth 
of their accusations. " You have got the devil in you, and 
we'll whip him out of you," they would say. I have often 
been put thus to the torture on bare suspicion. This system 
had its disadvantages as well as its opposite — the slave being 
sometimes whipped into the confession of offenses which he 
never committed. It will be seen that the good old rule, "A man 
is to be held innocent until proved to be guilty," did not hold 
good on the slave plantation. Suspicion and torture were the 
approved methods of getting at the truth there. It was nec- 
essary, therefore, for me to keep a watch over my deportment, 
lest the enemy should get the better of me. But with all our 
caution and studied reserve, I am not sure that Mr. Frceland 
did not suspect that all was not right with us. It did seem 
that he watched us more narrowly after the plan of escape 
had been conceived and discussed amongst us. Men seldom 
see themselves as others see them ; and while to ourselves 


everything connected with our contemplated escape appeared 
concealed, Mr. Freeland may, with the peculiar prescience of 
a slaveholder, have mastered the huge thought which was dis- 
turbing our peace. As I now look back, I am the more in- 
clined to think he suspected us, because, prudent as we were, 
I can see that we did many silly things very well calculated 
to awaken suspicion. We were at times remarkably buoyant, 
singing hymns, and making joyous exclamations, almost as 
triumphant in their tone as if we had reached a land of free- 
dom and safety. A keen observer might have detected in our 
repeated singing of 

" O Canaan, sweet Canaan, 
I am bound for the land of Canaan," 

something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We meant 
to reach the North, and the North was our Canaan. 

" I thought I heard them say 
There were lions in the way; 
I don't expect to stay 

Much longer here. 
Run to Jesus, shun the danger— 

I don't expect to stay 

Much longer here," 

was a favorite air, and had a double meaning. In the lips of 
some it meant the expectation of a speedy summons to a 
world of spirits ; but in the lips of our company, it simply 
meant a speedy pilgrimage to a free State, and deliverance 
from all the evils and dangers of slavery. 

I had succeeded in winning to my scheme a company of five 
young men, the very flower of the neighborhood, each one of 
whom would have commanded one thousand dollars in the 
home market. At New Orleans they would have brought 
fifteen hundred dollars apiece, and perhaps more. Their names 
were as follows : Henry Harris, John Harris, Sandy Jenkins, 
Charles Roberts, and Henry Bailey. I was the youngest but 
one of the party. I had, however, the advantage of them all 
in experience, and in a knowledge of letters. This gave me 

180 ■ I AM THE MAN. 

a great influence over them. Perhaps not one of them, left 
to himself, would have dreamed of escape as a possible thing. 
They all wanted to be free, but the serious thought of running 
away had not entered into their minds until I won them to 
the undertaking. They all were tolerably well off — for slaves 
— and had dim hopes of being set free some day by their mas- 
ters. If any one is to blame for disturbing the quiet of the 
slaves and slave-masters of the neighborhood of St. Michaels, 
I am the man. I claim to be the instigator of the high crime 
(as the slaveholders regarded it), and I kept life in it till life 
could be kept in it no longer. 

Pending the time of our contemplated departure out of our 
Egypt, we met often by night, and on every Sunday. At these 
meetings we talked the matter over, told our hopes and fears, 
and the difficulties discovered or imagined ; and, like men of 
sense, we counted the cost of the enterprise to which we were 
committing ourselves. These meetings must have resembled, 
on a small scale, the meetings of the revolutionary conspira- ^ 
tors in their primary condition. We were plotting against 
our (so-called) lawful rulers, with this difference — we sought 
our own good, and not the harm of our enemies. We did not 
seek to overthrow them, but to escape from them. As for Mr. 
Freeland, we all liked him, and would gladly have remained 
with him as free men. Liberty was our aim, and we had now 
come to think that we had a right to it against every obstacle, 
even against the lives of our enslavers. 

We had several words, expressive of things important to 
us, which we understood, but which, even if distinctly heard 
by an outsider, would have conveyed no certain meaning. I 
hated this secresy, but where slavery was powerful, and liberty 
weak, the latter was driven to concealment or destruction. 

The prospect was not always bright. At times we were 
almost tempted to abandon the enterprise, and to try to get 
back to that comparative peace of mind which even a man 
under the gallows might feel when all hope of escape had van- 
ished. We were confident, bold, and determined, at times, 


and again doubting, timid, and wavering, whistling, like the 
boy in the grave-yard, to keep away the spirits. 

To look at the map and observe the proximity of Eastern 
shore, Maryland, to Delaware and Pennsylvania, it may seem 
to the reader quite absurd to regard the proposed escape as a 
formidable undertaking. But to understand, some one has 
said, a man must stand under. The real distance was great 
enough, but the imagined distance was, to our ignorance, 
much greater. Slaveholders sought to impress their slaves 
with a belief in the boundlessness of slave territory, and of 
their own limitless power. Our notions of the geography 
of the country were very vague and indistinct. The distance, 
however, was not the chief trouble, for the nearer the lines 
of a slave state to the borders of a free state the greater was 
the trouble. Hired kidnappers infested the borders. Then, 
too, we knew that merely reaching a free state did not free 
us, that wherever caught we could be returned to slavery. We 
knew of no spot this side the ocean where we could be safe. 
We had heard of Canada, then the only real Canaan of the 
American bondman, simply as a country to which the wild 
goose and the swan repaired at the end of winter to escape 
the heat of summer, but not as the home of man. I knew 
something of Theology, but nothing of Geography. I really 
did not know that there was a state of New York or a state 
of Massachusetts. I had heard of Pennsylvania, Delaware, 
and New Jersey, and all the southern states, but was utterly 
ignorant of the free states. New York City was our northern 
limit, and to go there and to be forever harassed with the 
liability of being hunted down and returned to slavery, witli 
the certainty of being treated ten times worse than ever be- 
fore, was a prospect which might well cause some hesitation. 
The case sometimes, to our excited visions, stood thus: At 
every gate through which we had to pass we saw a watchman; 
at every ferry a guard ; on eyery bridge a sentinel, and in 
every wood a patrol or slave-hunter. We were hemmed in on 
every side. The good to be sought and the evil to be shunned 


were flung in the balance and weighed against each other. 
On the one hand stood slavery, a stern reality glaring fright- 
fully upon us, with the blood of millions in its polluted skirts, 
terrible to behold, greedily devouring our hard earnings and 
feeding it upon our flesh. This was the evil from which to 
escape. On the other hand, far away, back in the hazy dis- 
tance, where all forms seemed but shadows under the flicker- 
ing light of the north star, behind some craggy hill or snow- 
capped mountain, stood a doubtful freedom, half frozen, 
beckoning us to her icy domain. This was the good to be 
sought. The inequality was as great as that between certainty 
and uncertainty. This in itself was enough to stagger us ; 
but when we came to survey the untrodden road and conjec- 
ture the many possible difficulties we were appalled, and at 
times, as I have said, were upon the point of giving over the 
struggle altogether. The reader can have little idea of the 
phantoms which would flit, in such circumstances, before the 
uneducated mind of the slave. Upon either side we saw grim 
death, assuming a variety of horrid shapes. Now it was star- 
vation, causing us, in a strange and friendless land, to eat our 
own flesh. Now we were contending with the waves and 
were drowned. Now we were hunted by dogs and overtaken, 
and torn to pieces by their merciless fangs. We were stung 
by scorpions, chased by wild beasts, bitten by snakes, and 
worst of all, after having succeeded in swimming rivers, 
encountering wild beasts, sleeping in the woods, suffering 
hunger, cold, heat, and nakedness, overtaken by hired kid- 
nappers, who in the name of law and for the thrice-cursed 
reward would, perchance, fire upon us, kill some, wound 
others, and capture all. This dark picture, drawn by igno- 
rance and fear, at times greatly shook our determination, and 
not unfrequently caused us to 

" Rather bear the ills we had, 
Than flee to others which we knew not of." 

I am not disposed to magnify this circumstance in my experi- 
ence, and yet I think I shall seem to be so disposed to the 


reader, but no man can tell the intense agony which was felt 
by the slave when wavering on the point of making his escape. 
All that he has is at stake, and even that which he has not is 
at stake also. The life which he has may be lost, and the 
liberty which he seeks may not be gained. 

Patrick Henry, to a listening senate which was thrilled by 
his magic eloquence and ready to stand by him in his boldest 
flights, could say, " Give me liberty or give me death," and 
this saying was a sublime one, even for a freeman ; but in- 
comparably more sublime is the same sentiment when practi- 
cally asserted by men accustomed to the lash and chain, men 
whose sensibilities must have become more or less deadened 
by their bondage. With us it was a doubtful liberty, at best, 
that we sought, and a certain lingering death in the rice 
swamps and sugar fields if we failed. Life is not lightly re- 
garded by men of sane minds. It is precious both to the 
pauper and to the prince, to the slave and to his master ; and 
yet I believe there was not one among us who would not 
rather have been shot down than pass away life in hopeless 

In the progress of our preparations Sandy (the root man) 
became troubled. He began to have distressing dreams. 
One of these, which happened on a Friday night, was to him 
of great significance, and I am quite ready to confess that I 
felt somewhat damped by it myself. He said, " I dreamed 
last night that I was roused from sleep by strange noises like 
the noises of a swarm of angry birds that caused a roar as 
they passed, and which fell upon my ear like a coming gale 
over the tops of the trees. Looking up to see what it could 
mean I saw you, Frederick, in the claws of a huge bird, sur- 
rounded by a large number of birds of all colors and sizes. 
These were all pecking at you, while you, with your arms, 
seemed to be trying to protect your eyes. Passing over me, 
the birds flew in a southwesterly direction, and I watched 
them until they were clean out of sight. Now I saw this as 
plainly as I now see you ; and furder, honey, watch de Friday 

184 BANDY'S DftEAM. 

night dream ; dare is sumpon in it shose yon born ; dare is 
indeed, honey." I did not like the dream, but I showed no 
concern, attributing it to the general excitement and pertur- 
bation consequent upon our contemplated plan to escape. I 
could not, however, shake off its effect at once. I felt that it 
boded no good. Sandy was unusually emphatic and oracular, 
and his manner had much to do with the impression made 
upon me. 

The plan which I recommended, and to which my comrades 
consented, for our escape, was to take a large canoe owned 
by Mr. Hamilton, and on the Saturday night previous to the 
Easter holidays launch out into the Chesapeake bay and pad- 
dle for its head, a distance of seventy miles, with all our 
might. On reaching this point we were to turn the canoe 
adrift and bend our steps toward the north star till we reached 
a free state. 

There were several objections to this plan. In rough 
weather the waters of the Chesapeake are much agitated, and 
there would be danger, in a canoe, of being swamped by the 
waves. Another objection was that the canoe would soon be 
missed, the absent slaves would at once be suspected of having 
taken it, and we should be pursued by some of the fast-sailing 
craft out of St. Michaels. Then again, if we reached the 
head of the bay and turned the canoe adrift, she might prove 
a guide to our track and bring the hunters after us. 

These and other objections were set aside by the stronger 
ones, which could be urged against every other plan that could 
then be suggested. On the water we had a chance of being 
regarded as fishermen, in the service of a master. On the 
other hand, by taking the land route, through the counties 
adjoining Delaware, we should be subjected to all manner of 
interruptions, and many disagreeable questions, which might 
give us serious trouble. Any white man, if he pleased, was 
authorized to stop a man of color on any road, and examine 
and arrest him. By this arrangement many abuses (consid- 
ered such even by slaveholders) occurred. Cases have been 


known where freemen, being called upon to show their free 
papers by a pack of ruffians, and on the presentation of the 
papers, the ruffians have torn them up, and seized the victim 
and sold him to a life of endless bondage. 

The week before our intended start, I wrote a pass for each 
of our party, giving them permission to visit Baltimore during 
the Easter holidays. The pass ran after this manner : 

" This is to certify that I, the undersigned, have given the 
bearer, my servant John, full liberty to go to Baltimore to 
spend the Easter holidays. w. h. 

Near St. Michaels, Talbot Co., Md." 

Although we were not going to Baltimore, and were intend- 
ing to land east of North Point, in the direction I had seen 
the Philadelphia steamers go, these passes might be useful to 
us in the lower part of the bay, while steering towards Balti- 
more. These were not, however, to be shown by us, until all 
other answers failed to satisfy the inquirer. We were all fully 
ali ve to the importance of being calm and self-possessed when 
accosted, if accosted we should be ; and we more than once 
rehearsed to each other how we should behave in the hour of 

Those were long, tedious days and nights. The suspense 
was painful in the extreme. To balance probabilities, where 
life and liberty hang on the result, requires steady nerves. I 
panted for action, and was glad when the day, at the close of 
which we were to start, dawned upon us. Sleeping the night 
before was out of the question. I probably felt more deeply 
than any of my companions, because I was the instigator of 
the movement. The responsibility of the whole enterprise 
rested on my shoulders. The glory of success, and the shame 
and confusion of failure, could not be matters of indifference 
to me. Our food was prepared, our clothes were packed ; we 
were all ready to go, and impatient for Saturday morning — 
considering that the last of our bondage. 

I cannot describe the tempest and tumult of my brain that 
morning. The reader will please bear in mind that in a slave 


State an unsuccessful runaway was not only subjected to cruel 
torture, and sold away to the far South, but he was frequently 
execrated by the other slaves. He was charged with making 
the condition of the other slaves intolerable by laying them 
all under the suspicion of their masters — subjecting them to 
greater vigilance, and imposing greater limitations on their 
privileges. I dreaded murmurs from this quarter. It was 
difficult, too, for a slave-master to believe that slaves escaping 
had not been aided in their flight by some one of their fellow- 
slaves. When, therefore, a slave was missing, every slave on 
the place was closely examined as to his knowledge of the 

Our anxiety grew more and more intense, as the time of our 
intended departure drew nigh. It was truly felt to be a mat- 
ter of life and death with us, and we fully intended to fight, 
as well as run, if necessity should occur for that extremity. 
But the trial hour had not yet come. It was easy to resolve, 
but not so easy to act. I expected there might be some draw- 
ing back at the last ; it was natural there should be ; there- 
fore, during the intervening time, I lost no opportunity to 
explain away difficulties, remove doubts, dispel fears, and 
inspire all with firmness. It was too late to look back, and 
now was the time to go forward. I appealed to the pride of 
my comrades by telling them that if after having solemnly 
promised to go, as they had done, they now failed to make the 
attempt, they would in effect brand themselves with coward- 
ice, and might well sit down, fold their arms, and acknowl- 
edge themselves fit only to be slaves. This detestable char- 
acter all were unwilling to assume. Everyman except Sandy 
(he, much to our regret, withdrew) stood firm, and at our last 
meeting we pledged ourselves afresh, and in the most solemn 
manner, that at the time appointed we mould certainly start 
on our long journey for a free country. This meeting was in 
the middle of the week, at the end of which we were to start. 
Early on the appointed morning we went as usual to the 
field, but with hearts that beat quickly and anxiously. Any 


one intimately acquainted with us might have seen that all 
was not well with us, and that some monster lingered in our 
thoughts. Our work that morning was the same as it had 
been for several days past — drawing out and spreading 
manure. While thus engaged, I had a sudden presentiment, 
which flashed upon me like lightning in a dark night, reveal- 
ing to the lonely traveler the gulf before and the enemy 
behind. I instantly turned to Sandy Jenkins, who was near 
me, and said: " Sandy, we are betrayed! something has just 
told me so." I felt as sure of it as if the officers were in sight. 
Sandy said : " Man, dat is strange; but I feel just as you do." 
If my mother — then long in her grave — had appeared before 
me and told me that we were betrayed, I could not at that 
moment have felt more certain of the fact. 

In a few minutes after this, the long, low, and distant notes 
of the horn summoned us from the field to breakfast. I felt 
as one may be supposed to feel before being led forth to be 
executed for some great offense. I wanted no breakfast, but 
I went with the other slaves toward the house for form's sake. 
My feelings were not disturbed as to the right of running 
away ; on that point I had no misgiving whatever, but from 
a sense of the consequences of failure. 

In thirty minutes after that vivid impression came the 
apprehended crash. On reaching the house, and glancing my 
eye toward the lane gate, the worst was at once made known. 
The lane gate to Mr. Freehand's house was nearly half a mile 
from the door, and much shaded by the heavy wood which 
bordered the main road. I was, however, able to descry four 
white men and two colored men approaching. The white men 
were on horseback, and the colored men were walking behind, 
and seemed to be tied. "It is indeed all over with us; we are 
surely betrayed" I thought to myself. I became composed, 
or at least comparatively so, and calmly awaited the result. I 
watched the ill-omened company entering the gate. Success- 
ful flight was impossible, and I made up my mind to stand and 
meet the evil, whatever it might be, for I was not altogether 


without a slight hope that things might turn differently from 
what I had at first feared. In a few moments in came Mr. 
William Hamilton, riding very rapidly and evidently much 
excited. He was in the habit of riding very slowly, and was 
seldom known to gallop his horse. This time his horse was 
nearly at full speed, causing the dust to roll thick behind him. 
Mr. Hamilton, though one of the most resolute men in the 
whole neighborhood, was, nevertheless, a remarkably mild- 
spoken man, and, even when greatly excited, his language was 
cool and circumspect. He came to the door, and inquired if 
Mr. Freeland was in ? I told him that Mr. Freeland was at 
the barn. Off the old gentleman rode toward the barn, with 
unwonted speed. In a few moments Mr. Hamilton and Mr. 
Freeland came down from the barn to the house, and just as 
they made their appearance in the front-yard three men, who 
proved to be constables, came dashing into the lane on horse- 
back, as if summoned by a sign requiring quick work. A few 
seconds brought them into the front-yard, where they hastily 
dismounted and tied their horses. This done, they joined Mr. 
Freeland and Mr, Hamilton, who were standing a short dis- 
tance from the kitchen. A few moments were spent as if in 
consulting how to proceed, and then the whole party walked up 
to the kitchen door. There was now no one in the kitchen but 
myself and John Harris ; Henry and Sandy were yet in the 
barn. Mr. Freeland came inside the kitchen door, and with 
an agitated voice called me by name, and told me to come 
forward, that there were some gentlemen who wished to see 
me. I stepped toward them at the door, and asked what they 
wanted ; when the constables grabbed me, and told me that 
I had better not resist ; that I had been in a scrape, or was 
said to have been in one; that they were merely going to take 
me where I could be examined ; that they would have me 
brought before my master at St. Michaels, and if the evidence 
against me was not proved true I should be acquitted. I was 
now firmly tied, and completely at the mercy of my captors. 
Resistance was idle. They were five in number, armed to the 


teeth. When they had secured me, they turned to John Har- 
ris, and in a few moments succeeded in tying him as firmly as 
they had tied me. They next turned toward Henry Harris, 
who had now returned from the barn. " Cross your hands," 
said the constable to Henry. " I won't," said Henry, in a 
voice so firm and clear, and in a manner so determined, as for 
a moment to arrest all proceedings. " Won't you cross your 
hands ? " said Tom Graham, the constable. " No, I won't" 
said Henry, with increasing emphasis. Mr. Hamilton, Mr. 
Freeland, and the officers now came near to Henry. Two of 
the constables drew out their shining pistols, and swore, by 
the name of God, that he should cross his hands or they 
would shoot him down. Each of these hired ruffians now 
cocked their pistols, and, with fingers apparently on the trig- 
gers, presented their deadly weapons to the breast of the 
unarmed slave, saying, if he did not cross his hands, they 

would " blow his d d heart out of him." "Shoot me, shoot 

me," said Henry ; " you can't kill me but once. Shoot, shoot, 
and be damned ! I won't be tied ! " This the brave fellow 
said in a voice as defiant and heroic in its tone as was the 
language itself ; and at the moment of saying this, with the 
pistols at his very breast, he quickly raised his arms, and 
dashed them from the puny hands of his assassins, the 
weapons flying in all directions. Now came the struggle. All 
hands rushed upon the brave fellow, and after beating him 
for some time they succeeded in overpowering and tying him. 
Henry put me to shame ; he fought, and fought bravely. John 
and I had made no resistance. The fact is, I never saw much 
use of fighting where there was no reasonable probability of 
whipping anybody. Yet there was something almost provi- 
dential in the resistance made by Henry. But for that resist- 
ance every soul of us would have been hurried off to the 
far South. Just a moment previous to the trouble with Henry, 
Mr. Hamilton mildly said, — and this gave me the unmistaka- 
ble clue to the cause of our arrest, — " Perhaps we had now 
better make a search for those protections, which we under- 


stand Frederick has written for himself and the rest." Had 
these passes been found, they would have been point-blank 
proof against us, and would have confirmed all the statements 
of our betrayer. Thanks to the resistance of Henry, the 
excitement produced by the scuffle drew all attention in that 
direction, and I succeeded in flinging my pass, unobserved, 
into the fire. The confusion attendant on the scuffle, and the 
apprehension of still further trouble, perhaps, led our captors 
to forego, for the time, any search for " those protections which 
Frederick was said to have written for his companions ; " so 
we were not yet convicted of the purpose to run away, and it 
was evident that there was some doubt on the part of all 
whether we had been guilty of such purpose. 

J ust as we were all completely tied, and about ready to 
start toward St. Michaels, and thence to jail, Mrs. Betsey 
Freeland (mother to William, who was much attached, after 
the Southern fashion, to Henry and John, they having been 
reared from childhood in her house) came to the kitchen door 
with her hands full of biscuits, for we had not had our break- 
fast that morning, and divided them between Henry and John. 
This done, the lady made the following parting address to me, 
pointing her bony finger at me : " You devil ! you yellow 
devil ! It was you who put it into the heads of Henry and 
John to run away. But for you, you long-legged, yellow devil, 
Henry and John would never have thought of running away." 
I gave the lady a look which called forth from her a scream 
of mingled wrath and terror, as she slammed the kitchen door 
and went in, leaving me, with the rest, in hands as harsh as 
her own broken voice. 

Could the kind reader have been riding along the main road 
to or from Easton that morning, his eye would have met a 
painful sight. He would have seen five young men, guilty of 
no crime save that of preferring liberty to slavery, drawn along 
the public highway — firmly bound together, tramping through 
dust and heat, bare-footed and bare-headed — fastened to three 
strong horses, whose riders were armed with pistols and dag- 

Driven to Jail for Running Away 


gers, on their way to prison like felons, and suffering every 
possible insult from the crowds of idle, vulgar people, who 
clustered round, and heartlessly made their failure to escape 
the occasion for all manner of ribaldry and sport. As I 
looked upon this crowd of vile persons, and saw myself and 
friends thus assailed and persecuted, I could not help seeing 
the fulfilment of Sandy's dream. I was in the hands of moral 
vultures, and held in their sharp talons, and was being hurried 
away toward Easton, in a southeasterly direction, amid the 
jeers of new birds of the same feather, through every neigh- 
borhood we passed. It seemed to me that everybody was out, 
and knew the cause of our arrest, and awaited our passing in 
order to feast their vindictive eyes on our misery. 

Some said U I ought to be hanged ; " and others, "I ought to 
be burned;" others I ought to have the "hide" taken off my 
back ; while no one gave us a kind word or sympathizing 
look, except the poor slaves who were lifting their heavy hoes, 
and who cautiously glanced at us through the post-and-rail 
fences, behind which they were at work. Our sufferings that 
morning can be more easily imagined than described. Our 
hopes were all blasted at one blow. The cruel injustice, the 
victorious crime, and the helplessness of innocence, led me to 
ask in my ignorance and weakness : Where is now the God of 
justice and mercy ? and why have these wicked men the power 
thus to trample upon our rights, and to insult our feelings ? 
and yet in the next moment came the consoling thought, " the 
day of the oppressor will come at last." Of one thing I could 
be glad : not one of my dear friends upon whom I had brought 
this great calamity, either by word or look, reproached me 
for having led them into it. We were a band of brothers, 
and never dearer to each other than now. The thought which 
gave us the most pain was the probable separation which 
would now take place in case we were sold off to the far South, 
as we were likely to be. While the constables were looking 
forward, Henry and I, being fastened together, could occasion- 
ally exchange a word without being observed by the kidnap- 


pers who had us in charge. " What shall I do with my pass?" 
said Henry. " Eat it with your biscuit," said I ; "it won't do 
to tear it up." We were now near St. Michaels. The direc- 
tion concerning the passes was passed around, and executed. 
"Own nothing," said I. "Own nothing" was passed round, 
enjoined, and assented to. Our confidence in each other was 
unshaken, and* we were quite resolved to succeed or fail 
together ; as much after the calamity which had befallen us 
as before. 

On reaching St. Michaels we underwent a sort of examina- 
tion at my master's store, and it was evident to my mind that 
Master Thomas suspected the truthfulness of the evidence 
upon which they had acted in arresting us, and that he only 
affected, to some extent, the positiveness with which he as- 
serted our guilt. There was nothing said by any of our com- 
pany which could, in any manner, prejudice our cause, and 
there was hope yet that we should be able to return to our 
homes, if for nothing else, at least to find out the guilty man 
or woman who betrayed us. 

To this end we all denied that we had been guilty of in- 
tended flight. Master Thomas said that the evidence he had 
of our intention to run away was strong, enough to hang us 
in a case of murder. " But," said I, " the cases are not equal ; 
if murder were committed, — the thing is done ! but we have 
not run away. Where is the evidence against us ? We were 
quietly at our work." I talked thus, with unusual freedom, 
to bring out the evidence against us, for we all wanted, above 
all things, to know who had betrayed us, that we might 
have something tangible on which to pour our execrations. 
From something which dropped, in the course of the talk, 
it appeared that there was but one witness against us, and 
that that witness could not be produced. Master Thomas 
would not tell us who his informant was, but we sus- 
pected, and suspected one person only. Several circum- 
stances seemed to point Sandy out as our betrayer. His 
entire knowledge of our plans, his participation in them, his 


withdrawal from us, his dream and his simultaneous present- 
iment that we were betrayed, the taking us and the leaving 
him, were calculated to turn suspicion toward him, and yet 
we could not suspect him. We all loved him too well to think 
it possible that he could have betrayed us. So we rolled the 
guilt on other shoulders. 

We were literally dragged, that morning, behind horses, a 
distance of fifteen miles, and placed in the Easton jail. We 
were glad to reach the end of our journey, for our pathway 
had been full of insult and mortification. Such is the power 
of public opinion that it is hard, even for the innocent, to 
feel the happy consolations of innocence when they fall under 
the maledictions of this power. How could we regard our- 
selves as in the right, when all about us denounced us as 
criminals, and had the power and the disposition to treat us 
as such. 

In jail we were placed under the care of Mr. Joseph Gra- 
ham, the sheriff of the county. Henry and John and myself 
were placed in one room, and Henry Bailey and Charles Rob- 
erts in another by themselves. This separation was intended 
to deprive us of the advantage of concert, and to prevent 
trouble in jail. 

Once shut up, a new set of tormentors came upon us. A 
swarm of imps in human shape, — the slave-traders and agents 
of slave-traders — who gathered in every country town of the 
state watching for chances to buy human flesh (as buzzards 
watch for carrion), flocked in upon us to ascertain if our mas- 
ters had placed us in jail to be sold. Such a set of debased 
and villainous creatures I never saw before and hope never to 
see again. I felt as if surrounded by a pack of fiends fresh 
from perdition. They laughed, leered, and grinned at us, 
saying, "Ah, boys, we have got you, havn't we ? So you were 
about to make your escape ? Where were you going to ? " 
After taunting us in this way as long as they liked they one 
by one subjected us -to an examination, with a view to ascer- 
tain our value, feeling our arms and legs and shaking us Xyj 


the shoulders, to see if we were sound and healthy, impu- 
dently asking us, " how we would like to have them for mas- 
ters ? " To such questions we were quite dumb (much to 
their annoyance). One fellow told me, " if he had me he 
would cut the devil out of me pretty quick." 

These negro-buyers were very offensive to the genteel 
southern Christian public. They were looked upon in respect- 
able Maryland society as necessary but detestable characters. 
As a class, they were hardened ruffians, made such by nature 
and by occupation. Yes, they were the legitimate fruit of 
slavery, and were second in villainy only to the slaveholders 
themselves who made such a class possible. They were mere 
hucksters of the slave produce of Maryland and Virginia — 
coarse, cruel, and swaggering bullies, whose very breathing 
was of blasphemy and blood. 

Aside from these slave-buyers who infested the prison from 
time to time, our quarters were much more comfortable than 
we had any right to expect them to be. Our allowance of 
food was small and coarse, but our room was the best in the 
jail — neat and spacious, and with nothing about it necessarily 
reminding us of being in prison but its heavy locks and bolts 
and the black iron lattice work at the windows. We were 
prisoners of state compared with most ' slaves who were put 
into that Easton jail. But the place was not one of content- 
ment. Bolts, bars, and grated windows are not acceptable to 
freedom-loving people of any color. The suspense, too, was 
painful. Every step on the stairway was listened to, in the hope 
that the comer would cast a ray of light on our fate. We would 
have given the hair of our heads for half a dozen words with 
one of the waiters in Sol. Lowe's hotel. Such waiters were 
in the way of hearing, at the table, the probable course of 
things. We could see them flitting about in their white 
jackets in front of this hotel, but could speak to none of 

Soon after the holidays were over, contrary to all our ex- 
pectations, Messrs. Hamilton and Freeland came up to Easton; 


not to make a bargain with the " Georgia traders," nor to 
send us up to Austin Woldfolk, as was usual in the case of 
runaway-slaves, but to release Charles Henry Harris, Henry 
Bailey, and John Harris from prison, and this, too, without 
the infliction of a single blow. I was left alone in prison. 
The innocent had been taken and the guilty left. My friends 
were separated from me, and apparently forever. This cir- 
cumstance caused me more pain than any other incident con- 
nected with our capture and imprisonment. Thirty-nine 
lashes on my naked and bleeding back would have been joy- 
fully borne, in preference to this separation from these, the 
friends of my youth. And yet I could not but feel that I 
was the victim of something like justice. Why should these 
young men, who were led into this scheme by me, suffer as 
much as the instigator ? I felt glad that they were released 
from prison, and from the dread prospect of a life (or death 
I should rather say) in the rice swamps. It is due to the 
noble Henry to say that he was almost as reluctant to leave 
the prison with me in it as he had been to be tied and dragged 
to prison. But he and we all knew that we should, in all the 
likelihoods of the case, be separated, in the event of being 
sold; and since we were completely in the hands of our 
owners they concluded it would be best to go peaceably home. 
Not until this last separation, dear reader, had I touched 
those profounder depths of desolation which it is the lot of 
slaves often to reach. I was solitary and alone within the 
walls of a stone prison, left to a fate of life-long misery. I 
had hoped and expected much, for months before, but my hopes 
and expectations were now withered and blasted. The ever 
dreaded slave life in Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama, — from 
which escape was next to impossible — now in my loneliness 
stared me in the face. The possibility of ever becoming any- 
thing but an abject slave, a mere machine in the hands of an 
owner, had now fled, and it seemed to me it had fled forever. 
A life of living death, beset with the innumerable horrors of 
the cotton field and the sugar plantation, seemed to be my 


doom. The fiends who rushed into i*he prison when we were 
first put there continued to visit me and ply me with questions 
and tantalizing remarks. I was insulted, but helpless ; keenly 
alive to the demands of justice and liberty, but with no means 
of asserting them. To talk to those imps about justice or 
mercy would have been as absurd as to reason with bears and 
tigers. Lead and steel were the only arguments that they 
were capable of appreciating, as the events of the subsequent 
years have proved. 

After remaining in this life of misery and despair about 
a week, which seemed a month, Master Thomas, very much 
to my surprise and greatly to my relief, came to the prison 
and took me out, for the purpose, as he said, of sending 
me to Alabama with a friend of his, who would emanci- 
pate me at the end of eight years. I was glad enough to 
get out of prison, but I had no faith in the story that his 
friend would emancipate me. Besides, I had never heard of 
his having a friend in Alabama, and I took the announcement 
simply as an easy and comfortable method of shipping me off 
to the far south. There was a little scandal, too, connected 
with the idea of one Christian selling another to the Georgia 
traders, while it was deemed every way proper for them to 
sell to others. I thought this friend in Alabama was an in- 
vention to meet this difficulty, for Master Thomas was quite 
jealous of his religious reputation, however unconcerned he 
might have been about his real Christian character. In these 
remarks it is possible I do him injustice. He certainly did 
not exert his power over me as he might have done in the 
case, but acted, upon the whole, very generously, considering 
the nature of my offense. He had the power and the provo- 
cation to send me, without reserve, into the very everglades 
of Florida, beyond the remotest hope of emancipation ; and 
his refusal to exercise that power must be set down to his 

After lingering about St. Michaels a few days and no friend 
from Alabama appearing, Master Thomas decided to send me 



back again to Baltimore, to live with his brother Hugh, with 
whom he was now at peace ; possibly he became so by his 
profession of religion at the camp-meeting in the Bay side. 
Master Thomas told me he wished me to go to Baltimore and 
learn a trade ; and that if I behaved myself properly he would 
emancipate me at twenty-five. Thanks for this one beam of 
hope in the future. The promise had but one fault — it seemed 
too good to be true. 



Nothing lost in my attempt to run away — Comrades at home — Reasons for 
sending me away — Return to Baltimore — Tommy changed — Caulking in 
Gardiner's ship }'ard — Desperate fight — Its causes — Conflict between white 
and black labor — Outrage — Testimony — Master Hugh— Slavery in Balti- 
more — My condition improves — New associations — Slaveholder's right to 
the slave's wages — How to make a discontented slave. 

WELL, dear reader, I am not, as you have probably in- 
ferred, a loser by the general upstir described in the 
foregoing chapter. The little domestic revolution, notwith- 
standing the sudden snub it got by the treachery of somebody, 
did not, after all, end so disastrously as when in the iron cage 
at East on I conceived it would. The prospect from that point 
did look about as dark as any that ever cast its gloom over 
the vision of the anxious, out-looking human spirit. "All's 
well that ends avcII ! " My affectionate friends, Henry and 
John Harris, are still with Mr. Freelani. Charles Roberts 
and Henry Bailey are safe at their homes. I have not, there- 
fore, anything to regret on their account. Their masters have 
mercifully forgiven them, probably on the ground suggested 
in the spirited little speech of Mrs. Freeland made to me just 
before leaving for the jail. My friends had nothing to regret, 
either : for while they were watched more closely, they were 
doubtless treated more kindly than before, and got new assur- 
ances that they should some day be legally emancipated, pro- 
vided their behavior from that time forward should make 
them deserving. Not a blow was struck any one of them. 
As for Master Freeland, good soul, he did not believe we were 
intending to run away at all. Having given — as he thought 
— no occasion to his boys to leave him, he could not think it 
probable that they had entertained a design so grievous. 


all's well that ends well. 201 

This, however, was not the view taken of the matter by " Mas' 
Billy," as we used to call the soft-spoken but crafty and reso- 
lute Mr. William Hamilton. He had no doubt that the crime 
had been meditated, and regarding me as the instigator of it, 
he frankly told Master Thomas that he must remove me from 
that neighborhood or he would shoot me. He would not have 
one so dangerous as " Frederick " tampering with his slaves. 
William Hamilton was not a man whose threat might be 
safely disregarded. I have no doubt he would have proved 
as good as his word, had the warning given been disregarded. 
He was furious at the thought of such a piece of high-handed 
theft as we were about to perpetrate — the stealing of our own 
bodies and souls. The feasibility of the plan, too, could the 
first steps have been taken, was marvelously plain. Besides, 
this was a new idea, this use of the Bay. Slaves escaping, 
until now, had taken to the woods ; they had never dreamed 
of profaning and abusing the waters of the noble Chesapeake 
by making them the highway from slavery to freedom. Here 
was a broad road leading to the destruction of slavery, which 
had hitherto been looked upon as a wall of security by the 
slaveholders. But Master Billy could not get Mr. Freeland 
to see matters precisely as he did, nor could he get Master 
Thomas excited as he was. The latter, I must say it to his 
credit, showed much humane feeling, and atoned for much 
that had been harsh, cruel, and unreasonable in his former 
treatment of me and of others. My " Cousin Tom " told me 
that while I was in jail Master Thomas was very unhappy, 
and that the night before his going up to release me he had 
walked the floor nearly all night, evincing great distress ; that 
very tempting offers had been made to him by the negro- 
traders, but he had rejected them all, saying that money could 
not tempt him to sell me to the far south. I can easily believe 
all this, for he seemed quite reluctant to send me away at all. 
He told me that he only consented to do so because of the 
very strong prejudice against me in the neighborhood, and 
that he feared for my safety if I remained there. 


Thus after three years spent in the country, roughing it in 
the field, and experiencing all sorts of hardships, I was again 
permitted to return to Baltimore, the very place of all others, 
short of a free State, where I most desired to live. The three 
years spent in the country had made some difference in me, 
and in the household of Master Hugh. " Little Tommy " was 
no longer little Tommy ; and I was not the slender lad who 
had left the Eastern Shore just three years before. The lov- 
ing relations between Master Tommy and myself were broken 
up. He was no longer dependent on me for protection, but 
felt himself a man, with other and more suitable associates. In 
childhood he had considered me scarely inferior to himself, — 
certainly quite as good as any other boy with whom he played 
— but the time had come when his friend must be his slave. 
So we were cold to each other, and parted. It was a sad thing 
to me, that loving each other as we had done, we must now 
take different roads. To him a thousand avenues were open. 
Education had made him acquainted with all the treasures of 
the world, and liberty had flung open the gates thereunto ; 
but I, who had attended him seven years, had watched over 
him with the care of a big brother, fighting his battles in the 
street, and shielding him from harm to an extent which 
induced his mother to say, " Oh, Tommy is always safe when 
he is with Freddy " — I must be confined to a single condition. 
He had grown and become a man : I, though grown to the stature 
of manhood, must all my life remain a minor — a mere boy. 
Thomas Auld, junior, obtained a situation on board the brig 
Tweed, and went to sea. I have since heard of his death. 

There were few persons to whom I was more sincerely 
attached than to him. 

Yery soon after I went to Baltimore to live, Master Hugh 
succeeded in getting me hired to Mr. William Gardiner, an 
extensive ship-builder on Fell's Point. I was placed there to 
learn to calk, a trade of which I already had some knowledge, 
gained while in Mr. Hugh Auld's ship-yard. Gardiner's, how- 
ever, proved a very unfavorable place for the accomplishment 


of the desired object. Mr. Gardiner was that season engaged 
in building two large man-of-war vessels, professedly for the 
Mexican government. These vessels were to be launched in 
the month of July of that year, and in failure thereof Mr. 
Gardiner would forfeit a very considerable sum of money. So 
when I entered the ship-yard,, all was hurry and driving. 
There were in the yard about one hundred men ; of these, seventy 
or eighty were regular carpenters — privileged men. There was 
no time for a raw hand to learn anything. Every man had 
to do that which he knew how to do, and in entering the yard 
Mr. Gardiner had directed me to do whatever the carpenters 
told me to do. This was placing me at the beck and call of 
about seventy-five men. I was to regard all these as my mas- 
ters. Their word was to be my law. My situation was a try- 
ing one. I was called a dozen ways in the space of a 
single minute. I needed a dozen pairs of hands. Three 
or four voices would strike my ear at the same moment. It 
was " Fred, come help me to cant this timber here," — "Fred, 
come carry this timber yonder," — " Fred, bring that roller 
here," — " Fred, go get a fresh can of water," — " Fred, come 
help saw off the end of this timber," — " Fred, go quick and 
get the crow-bar," — " Fred, hold on the end of this fall," — 
" Fred, go to the blacksmith's shop and get a new punch," — 
" Halloo, Fred ! run and bring me a cold-chisel," — " I say, Fred, 
bear a hand, and get up a fire under the steam-box as quick 
as lightning," — " Hullo, nigger ! come turn this grindstone," 
— " Come, come ; move, move ! and bowse this timber forward," 
— " I say, darkey, blast your eyes ! why don't you heat up 
some pitch ? " — " Halloo ! halloo ! halloo ! (three voices at the 
same time)" — " Come here ; go there ; hold on where you 

are. D n you, if you move I'll knock your brains out ! " 

Such, my dear reader, is a glance at the school which was 
mine during the first eight months of my stay at Gardiner's 
ship-yard. At the end of eight months Master Hugh refused 
longer to allow me to remain with Gardiner. The circum- 
stances which led to this refusal was the committing of an 


outrage upon me, by the white apprentices of the ship-yard. 
The fight was a desperate one, and I came out of it shockingly 
mangled. I was cut and bruised in sundry places, and my 
left eye was nearly knocked out of its socket. The facts 
which led to this brutal outrage upon me, illustrate a phase 
of slavery which was destined to become an important ele- 
ment in the overthrow of the slave system, and I may therefore 
state them with some minuteness. That phase was this — the 
conflict of slavery with the interests of white mechanics and 
laborers. In the country this conflict was not so apparent; 
but in cities, such as Baltimore, Richmond, New Orleans, 
Mobile, etc., it was seen pretty clearly. The slaveholders, 
with a craftiness peculiar to themselves, by encouraging the 
enmity of the poor laboring white man against the blacks, 
succeeded in making the said white man almost as much a 
slave as the black slave himself. The difference between the 
white slave and. the black slave was this: the latter belonged 
to one slaveholder, and the former belonged to the slaveholders 
collectively. The white slave had taken from him by indirec- 
tion, what the black slave had taken from him directly and 
without ceremony. Both were plundered, and by the same 
plunderers. The slave was robbed by his master of all his 
earnings, above what was required for his bare physical neces- 
sities, and the white laboring man was robbed by the slave 
system, of the just result's of his labor, because he was flung 
into competition with a class of laborers who worked without 
wages. The slaveholders blinded them to this competition by 
keeping alive their prejudice against the slaves as men — not 
against them as slaves. They appealed to their pride, often 
denouncing emancipation as tending to place the white work- 
ing, man on an equality with negroes, and by this means they 
succeeded in drawing off the minds of the poor whites from 
the real fact, that by the rich slave-master, they were already 
regarded as but a single remove from equality with the slave. 
The impression was cunningly made that slavery was the only 
power that could prevent the laboring white man from falling 


to the level of the slave's poverty and degradation. To make 
this enmity deep and broad between the slave and the poor 
white man, the latter was allowed to abuse and whip the 
former without hindrance. But, as I have said, this state of 
affairs prevailed mostly in the country. In the city of Balti- 
more there were not unfrequent murmurs that educating 
slaves to be mechanics might, in the end, give slave-masters 
power to dispose altogether with the services of the poor white 
man. But with characteristic dread of offending the slave- 
holders, these poor white mechanics in Mr. Gardiner's ship- 
yard, instead of applying the natural, honest remedy for the 
apprehended, evil, and objecting at once to work there by the 
side of slaves, made a cowardly attack upon the free colored 
mechanics, saying they were eating the bread which should be 
eaten by American freemen, and swearing that they would 
not work with them. The feeling was really against having 
their labor brought into competition with that of the colored 
freeman, and aimed to prevent him from serving himself, in 
the evening of life, with the trade with which he had served 
his master, during the more vigorous portion of his days. Had 
they succeeded in driving the black freemen out of the ship- 
yard, they would have determined also upon the removal of 
the black slaves. The feeling was very bitter toward all col- 
ored people in Baltimore about this time (1836), and they — 
free and slave — suffered all manner of insult and wrong. 

Until a very little while before I went there white and black 
carpenters worked side by side in the ship-yards of Mr. Gar- 
diner, Mr. Duncan, Mr. Walter Price, and Mr. Robb. Nobody 
seemed to see any impropriety in it. Some of the blacks were 
first rate workmen and were given jobs requiring the highest 
skill. All at once, however, the white carpenters knocked off 
and swore that they would no longer work on the same stage 
with negroes. Taking advantage of the heavy contract rest- 
ing upon Mr. Gardiner to have the vessels for Mexico ready 
to launch in July, and of the difficulty of getting other hands 
at that season of the year, they swore they would not strike 


another blow for him unless he would discharge his free col- 
ored workmen. Now, although this movement did not extend 
to me in form, it did reach me in fact. The spirit which it 
awakened was one of malice and bitterness toward colored 
people generally, and I suffered with the rest, and suffered 
severely. My fellow-apprentices very soon began to feel it to 
be degrading to work with me. They began to put on high 
looks and to talk contemptuously and maliciously of " the 
niggers," saying that they would take the " country ," that 
they "ought to be killed." Encouraged by workmen who, 
knowing me to be a slave, made no issue with Mr. Gardiner 
about my being there, these young men did their utmost to 
make it impossible for me to stay. They seldom called me to 
do anything without coupling the call with a curse, and Ed- 
ward North, the biggest in everything, rascality included, 
ventured to strike me, whereupon I picked him up and threw 
him into the dock. Whenever any of them struck me I 
struck back again, regardless of consequences. I could man- 
age any of them singly, and so long as I could keep them 
from combining I got on very well. In the conflict which 
ended my stay at Mr. Gardiner's I was beset by four of them 
at once — Ned North, Ned Hays, Bill Stewart, and Tom Hum- 
phreys. Two of them were as large as myself, and they came 
near killing me, in broad day-light. One came in front, 
armed with a brick ; there was one at each side and one be- 
hind, and they closed up all around me. I was struck on all 
sides ; and while I was attending to those in front I received 
a blow on my head from behind, dealt with a heavy hand- 
spike. I was completely stunned by the blow, and fell heavily 
on the ground among the timbers. Taking advantage of my 
fall they rushed wpon me and began to pound me with their 
fists. I let them lay on for a while after I came to myself, 
with a view of gaining strength. They did me little damage 
so far ; but finally getting tired of that sport I gave a sudden 
surge, and despite their weight I rose to my hands and knees. 
Just as I did this one of their number planted a blow with 


his boot in my left eye, which for a time seemed to have burst 
my eye-ball. When they saw my eye completely closed, my 
face covered with blood, and I staggering under the stunning 
blows they had given me, they left me. As soon as I gathered 
strength I picked up the hand-spike and madly enough at- 
tempted to pursue them ; but here the carpenters interfered 
and compelled me to give up my pursuit. It was impossible 
to stand against so many. 

Dear reader, you can hardly believe the statement, but it is 
true, and therefore I write it down ; no fewer than fifty white 
men stood by and saw this brutal and shameful outrage com- 
mitted, and not a man of them all interposed a single word 
of mercy. There were four against one, and that one's face 
was beaten and battered most horribly, and no one said, " that 
is enough;" but some cried out, "Kill him! kill him! kill 

the d n nigger ! knock his brains out ! he struck a white 

person ! " I mention this inhuman outcry to show the char- 
acter of the men and the spirit of the times at Gardiner's 
ship-yard ; and, indeed, in Baltimore generally, in 1836. As 
I look back to this period, I am almost amazed that I was not 
murdered outright, so murderous was the spirit which pre- 
vailed there. On two other occasions while there I came near 
losing my life, on one of which I was driving bolts in the 
hold through the keelson with Hays. In its course the bolt 
bent. Hays cursed me, and said that it was my blow which 
bent the bolt. I denied this, and charged it upon him. In 
a fit of rage he seized an adze and darted toward me. I met 
him with a maul and parried his blow, or I should have lost 
my life. 

After the united attack of North, Stewart, Hays, and Hum- 
phreys, finding that the carpenters were as bitter toward me 
as the apprentices, and that the latter were probably set on 
by the former, I found my only chance for life was in flight. 
I succeeded in getting away without an additional blow. To 
strike a white man was death by lynch law, in Gardiner's 
ship-yard ; nor was there much of any other law toward the 
colored people at that time in any other part of Maryland, 


After making my escape from the ship-yard I went straight 
home and related my story to Master Hugh ; and to his credit 
I say it, that his conduct, though he was not a religious man, 
was every way more humane than that of his brother Thomas, 
when I went to him in a somewhat similar plight, from the 
hands of his " Brother Edward Covey." Master Hugh listened 
attentively to my narration of the circumstances leading to 
the ruffianly assault, and gave many evidences of his strong 
indignation at what was done. He was a rough but manly- 
hearted fellow, and at this time his best nature showed itself. 

The heart of my once kind mistress Sophia was again 
melted in pity towards me. My puffed-out eye and my scarred 
and blood-covered face moved the dear lady to tears. She 
kindly drew a chair by me, and with friendly and consoling 
words, she took water and washed the blood from my face. 
No mother's hand could have been more tender than hers. 
She bound up my head and covered my wounded eye with a 
lean piece of fresh beef. It was almost compensation for all 
I suffered that it occasioned the manifestation once more of 
the originally characteristic kindness of my mistress. Her 
affectionate heart was not yet dead, though much hardened 
by time and circumstances. 

As for Master Hugh he was furious, and gave^ expression to 
his feelings in the forms of speech usual in that locality. He 
poured curses on the whole of the ship-yard company, and 
swore that he would have satisfaction. His indignation was 
really strong and healthy ; but unfortunately it resulted from 
the thought that his rights of property, in my person, had not 
been respected, more than from any sense of the outrage per- 
petrated upon me as a man. I had reason to think this from 
the fact that he could, himself, beat and mangle when it suited 
him to do so. 

Bent on having satisfaction, as he said, just as soon as I 
got a little the better of my bruises Master Hugh took me to 
Esquire Watson's office on Bond street, Fell's Point, with a 
view to procuring the arrest of those who had assaulted me. 


He related the outrage to the magistrate as I had related it to 
him, and seemed to expect that a warrant would at once be 
issued for the arrest of the lawless ruffians. Mr. Watson 
heard all he had to say, then coolly inquired, "Mr. Auld, who 
saw this assault of which you speak ? " " It was done, sir, in 
the presence of a ship-yard full of hands." " Sir," said Mr. 
Watson, " I am sorry, but I cannot move in this matter, ex- 
cept upon the oath of white witnesses." " But here's the 
boy; look at his head and face," said the excited Master 
Hugh ; " they show what has been done." But Watson in- 
sisted that he was not authorized to do anything, unless white 
witnesses of the transaction would come forward and testify 
to what had taken place. He could issue no warrant on my 
word, against white persons, and if I had been killed in the 
presence of a thousand blacks, their testimony combined would 
ha^e been insufficient to condemn a single murderer. Master 
Hugh was compelled to say, for once, that this state of things 
was too bad, and he left the office of the magistrate disgusted. 

Of course it was impossible to get any white man to testify 
against my assailants. The carpenters saw what was done ; 
but the actors were but the agents of their malice, and did 
only what the carpenters sanctioned. They had cried with 
one accord, " Kill the nigger ! kill the nigger ! " Even those 
who may have pitied me, if any such were among them, 
lacked the moral courage to volunteer their evidence. The 
slightest show of sympathy or justice toward a person of color 
was denounced as abolitionism ; and the name of abolitionist 
subjected its hearer to frightful liabilities. " D n aboli- 
tionists," and " kill the niggers," were the watch-words of the 
foul-mouthed ruffians of those days. Nothing was done, and 
probably there would not have been had I been killed in the 
affray. The laws and the morals of the Christian city of 
Baltimore afforded no protection to the sable denizens of that 

Master Hugh, on rinding he could get no redress for the 
cruel wrong, withdrew me from the employment of Mr. Gar- 
diner and took me into his own family, Mrs. Auld kindly 


taking care of me and dressing my wounds until they were 
healed and I was ready to go to work again. 

While I was on the Eastern Shore, Master Hugh had met 
with reverses which overthrew his business ; and he had given up 
ship-building in his own yard, on the City Block, and was now 
acting as foreman of Mr. Walter Price. The best he could 
do for me was to take me into Mr. Price's yard, and afford 
me the facilities there for completing the trade which I began 
to learn at Gardiner's. Here I rapidly became expert in the 
use of calker's tools, and in the course of a single year, I was 
able to command the highest wages paid to journeymen 
calkers in Baltimore. 

The reader will observe that I was now of some pecuniary 
value to my master. During the busy season I was bringing 
six and seven dollars per week. I have sometimes brought 
him as much as nine dollars a week, for the wages were a 
dollar and a half per day. 

After learning to calk, I sought my own employment, made 
my own contracts, and collected my own earnings — giving 
Master Hugh no trouble in any part of the transactions to 
which I was a party. 

Here, then, were better days for the Eastern Shore slave. 
I was free from the vexatious assaults of the apprentices at 
Mr. Gardiner's, and free from the perils of plantation life, and 
once more in favorable condition to increase my little stock of 
education, which had been at a dead stand since my removal 
from Baltimore. I had on the Eastern Shore been only a 
teacher, when in company with other slaves, but now there 
were colored persons here who could instruct me. Many of the 
young calkers could read, write, and cipher. Some of them 
had high notions about mental improvement, and the free ones 
on Fell's Point organized what they called the " East Balti- 
more Mental Improvement Society." To this society, notwith- 
standing it was intended that only free persons should attach 
themselves, I was admitted, and was several times assigned a 
prominent part in its debates. I owe much to the society of 
these young men. 


The reader already knows enough of the ill effects of good 
treatment on a slave to anticipate what was now the case in 
my improved condition. It was not long before I began to 
show signs of disquiet with slavery, and to look around for 
means to get out of it by the shortest route. I was living 
among freemen, and was in all respects equal to them by 
nature and attainments. Why should I be a slave f There 
was no reason why I should be the thrall of any man. Be- 
sides, I was now getting, as I have said, a dollar and fifty 
cents per day. I contracted for it, worked for it, collected it ; 
it was paid to me, and it was rightfully my own ; and yet upon 
every returning Saturday night, this money — my own hard 
earnings, every cent of it — was demanded of me and taken 
from me by Master Hugh. He did not earn it ; he had no 
hand in earning it ; why, then, should he have it ? I owed 
him nothing. He had given me no schooling, and I had 
received from him only my food and raiment; and for these 
my services were supposed to pay from the first. The right 
to take my earnings was the right of the robber. He had the 
power to compel me to give him the fruits of my labor, and 
this power was his only right in the case. I became more 
and more dissatisfied with this state of things, and in so 
becoming I only gave proof of the same human nature which 
every reader of this chapter in my life — slaveholder, or non- 
slaveholder — is conscious of possessing. 

To make a contented slave, you must make a thoughtless 
one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, 
and, as far as possible, to annihilate his power of reason. He 
must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery. The man 
who takes his earnings must be able to convince him that he 
has a perfect right to do so. It must not depend upon mere 
force : the slave must know no higher law than his master's 
will. The whole relationship must not only demonstrate to his 
mind its necessity, but its absolute rightfulness. If there be 
one crevice through which a single drop can fall, it will cer- 
tainly rust off the slave's chain. 



Closing incidents in my "Life as a Slave" — Discontent — Suspicions — Mas- 
ter's generosity — Difficulties in the way of escape — Plan to obtain money 
— Allowed to hire my time — A gleam of hope — Attend camp-meeting— 
Anger of Master Hugh — The result — Plans of escape — Day for depart- 
ure fixed — Harassing doubts and fears — Painful thoughts of separa- 
tion from friends. 

MY condition during the year of my escape (1838) was 
comparatively a free and easy one, so far, at least, as 
the wants of the physical man were concerned ; but the reader 
will bear in mind that my troubles from the beginning had 
been less physical than mental, and he will thus be prepared 
to find that slave life was adding nothing to its charms for 
me as I grew older, and became more and more acquainted with 
it. The practice from week to week of openly robbing me of 
all my earnings, kept the nature and character of slavery 
constantly before me. I could be robbed by indirection, but 
this was too open and barefaced to be endured. I could see 
no reason why I should, at the end of each week, pour the 
reward of my honest toil into the purse of my master. My obli- 
gation to do this vexed me, and the manner in which Master 
Hugh received my wages vexed me yet more. Carefully count- 
ing the money, and rolling it out dollar by dollar, he would 
look me in the face as if he would search my heart 
as well as my pocket, and reproachfully ask me, "Is 
that all ? " — implying that I had perhaps kept back part 
of my wages; or, if not so, the demand was made possi- 
bly to make me feel that after all, I was an " unprofitable 
servant." Draining me of the last cent of my hard earnings, 
he would, however, occasionally, when I brought home an 
extra large sum, dole out to me a sixpence or a shilling, with 



a view, perhaps, of kindling up my gratitude. But it had the 
opposite effect ; it was an admission of my right to the whole 
sum. The fact that he gave me any part of my wages, was 
proof that he suspected I had a right to the whole of them ; 
and I always felt uncomfortable after having received any- 
thing in this way, lest his giving me a few cents might possi- 
bly ease his conscience, and make him feel himself to be a 
pretty honorable robber after all. 

Held to a strict account, and kept under a close watch, — 
the old suspicion of my running away not having been 
entirely removed, — to accomplish my escape seemed a very 
difficult thing. The railroad from Baltimore to Philadelphia 
was under regulations so stringent that even free colored 
travelers were almost excluded. They must have free papers ; 
they must be measured and carefully examined before they 
could enter the cars, and could go only in the day time^ even 
when so examined. The steamboats were under regulations 
equally stringent. And still more, and worse than all, all the 
great turnpikes leading northward were beset with kidnap- 
pers ; a class of men who watched the newspapers for adver- 
tisements for runaway slaves, thus making their living by the 
accursed reward of slave-hunting. 

My discontent grew upon me, and I was on a constant look- 
out for means to get away. With money I could easily have 
managed the matter, and from this consideration I hit upon 
the plan of soliciting the privilege of hiring my time. It was 
quite common in Baltimore to allow slaves this privilege, and 
was the practice also in New Orleans. A slave who was con- 
sidered trustworthy could, by paying his master a definite sum 
regularly, at the end of each week, dispose of his time as he 
liked. It so happened that I was not in very good odor, and 
I was far from being a trustworthy slave. Nevertheless, I 
watched my opportunity when Master Thomas came to Balti- 
more (for I was still his property, Hugh only acting as his 
agent) in the spring of 1838, to purchase his spring supply of 
goods, and applied to him directly for the much-coveted privi- 


lege of hiring my time. This request Master Thomas unhesi- 
tatingly refused to grant ; and he charged me, with some stern- 
ness, with inventing this stratagem to make my escape. He 
told me I could go nowhere but he would catch me; and, in 
the event of my running away, I might be assured he should 
spare no pains in his efforts to recapture me. He recounted, 
with a good deal of eloquence, the many kind offices he had 
done me, and exhorted me to be contented and obedient. " Lay 
out no plans for the future," said he ; " if you behave yourself 
properly, I will take care of you." Now, kind and considerate 
as this offer was, it failed to soothe me into repose. In spite 
of all Master Thomas had said, and in spite of my own efforts 
to the contrary, the injustice and wickedness of slavery was 
always uppermost in my thoughts, strengthening my purpose 
to make my escape at the earliest moment possible. 

About two months after applying to Master Thomas for the 
privilege of hiring my time, I applied to Master Hugh for the 
same liberty, supposing him to be unacquainted with the fact 
that I had made a similar application to Master Thomas, and 
had been refused. My boldness in making this request fairly 
astounded him at first. He gazed at me in amazement. But 
I had many good reasons for pressing the matter, and, after 
listening to them awhile, he did not absolutely refuse, but told 
me he would think of it. There was hope for me in this. 
Once master of my own time, I felt sure that I could make 
over and above my obligation to him, a dollar or two every 
week. Some slaves had made enough in this way to purchase 
their freedom. It was a sharp spur to their industry ; and 
some of the most enterprising colored men in Baltimore hired 
themselves in that way. 

After mature reflection, as I suppose it was, Master Hugh 
granted me the privilege in question, on the following terms : 
I was to be allowed all my time ; to make all bargains for 
work, and to collect my own wages ; and in return for this 
liberty, I was required or obliged to pay him three dollars at 
the end of each week, and to board and clothe myself, and 


buy my own calking tools. A failure in any of these particu- 
lars would put an end to the privilege. This was a hard 
bargain. The wear and tear of clothing, the losing and break- 
ing of tools, and the expense of board made it necessary for 
me to earn at least six dollars per week to keep even with the 
world. All who are acquainted with calking know how uncer- 
tain and irregular that employment is. It can be done to 
advantage only in dry weather, for it is useless to put wet 
oakum into a ship's seam. Rain or shine, however, work or 
no work, at the end of each week the money must be forth- 

Master Hugh seemed much pleased with this arrangement 
for a time ; and well he might be, for it was decidedly in his 
favor. It relieved him of all anxiety concerning me. His 
money was sure. He had armed my love of liberty with a 
lash and a driver far more efficient than any I had before 
known ; and while he derived all the benefits of slaveholding 
by the arrangement, without its evils, I endured all the evils 
of being a slave, and yet suffered all the care and anxiety of 
a responsible freeman. " Nevertheless," thought I, " it is a 
valuable privilege — another step in my career toward free- 
dom." It was something even to be permitted to stagger 
under the disadvantages of liberty, and I was determined to 
hold on to the newly gained footing by all proper industry. I 
was ready to work by night as by day, and being in the posses- 
sion of excellent health, I was not only able to meet my current 
expenses, but also to lay by a small sum at the end of each 
week. All went on thus from the month of May till August ; 
then, for reasons which will become apparent as I proceed, 
my much-valued liberty was wrested from me. 

During the week previous to this calamitous event, I had 
made arrangements with a few young friends to accompany 
them on Saturday night to a camp-meeting, to be held about 
twelve miles from Baltimore. On the evening of our intended 
start for the camp-ground, something occurred in the ship- 
yard where I was at work which detained me unusually late, 


and compelled me either to disappoint my friends, or to neg- 
lect carrying my weekly dues to Master Hugh. Knowing that 
I had the money and could hand it to him on another day, I 
decided to go to camp-meeting, and to pay him the three dol- 
lars for the past week on my return. Once on the camp- 
ground, I was induced to remain one day longer than I had 
intended when I left home. But as soon as I returned I went 
directly to his home on Fell street to hand him his (my) 
money. Unhappily the fatal mistake had been made. I found 
him exceedingly angry. He exhibited all the signs of appre- 
hension and wrath which a slaveholder might be surmised to 
exhibit on the supposed escape of a favorite slave. a You 
rascal ! I have a great mind to give you a sound whipping. 
How dare you go out of the city without first asking and 
obtaining my permission ? " " Sir," I said, " I hired my time 
and paid you the price you asked for it. I did not know that 
it was any part of the bargain that I should ask you when or 
where I should go." " You did not know, you rascal ! You 
are bound to show yourself here every Saturday night." After 
reflecting a few moments, he became somewhat cooled down; 
but evidently greatly troubled, he said: "Now, you scoundrel, 
you have done for yourself ; you shall hire your time no longer. 
The next thing I shall hear of will be your running away. 
Bring home your tools at once. I'll teach you how to go off 
in this way." 

Thus ended my partial freedom. I could hire my time no 
longer; and I obeyed my master's orders at once. The little 
taste of lil>erty which I had had — although as it will be 
seen, that taste was far from being unalloyed- by no means 
enhanced my contentment with slavery. Punished by Master 
Hugh, it was now my turn to punish him. " Since," thought 
I, " you will make a slave of me, I will await your order in all 
things." So, instead of going to look for work on Monday 
morning, as I had formerly done, I remained at home during 
the entire week, without the performance of a single stroke of 
work. Saturday night came, and he called upon me as usual 


for my wages. I, of course, told him I had done no work, and 
had no wages. Here we were at the point of coming to blows. 
His wrath had been accumulating during the whole week ; for 
he evidently saw that I was making no effort to get work, but 
was most aggravatingly awaiting his orders in all things. As 
I look back to this behavior of mine, I scarcely know what 
possessed me, thus to trifle with one who had such unlimited 
power to bless or blast me. Master Hugh raved, and swore 
he would " get hold of me," but wisely for him, and happily 
for me, his wrath employed only those harmless, impalpable 
missiles which roll from a limber tongue. In my desperation 
I had fully made up my mind to measure strength with him, 
in case he should attempt to execute his threats. I am glad 
there was no occasion for this, for resistance to him could not 
have ended so happily for me as it did in the case of Covey. 
Master Hugh was not a man to be safely resisted by a slave ; 
and I freely own that in my conduct toward him, in this 
instance, there was more folly than wisdom. He closed his 
reproofs by telling me that hereafter I need give myself no 
uneasiness about getting work ; he " would himself see to get- 
ting work for me, and enough of it at that." This threat, I 
confess, had some terror in it, and on thinking the matter 
over during the Sunday, I resolved not only to save him the 
trouble of getting me work, but that on the third day of Sep- 
tember I would attempt to make my escape. His refusal to 
allow me to hire my time therefore hastened the period of my 
flight. I had three weeks in which to prepare for my journey. 
Once resolved, I felt a certain degree of repose, and on 
Monday morning, instead of waiting for Master Hugh to seek 
employment for me, I was up by break of day, and off to the 
ship-yard of Mr. Butler, on the City Block, near the draw- 
bridge. I was a favorite with Mr. Butler, and, young as I 
was, I had served as his foreman, on the float-stage, at calk- 
ing. Of course I easily obtained work, and at the end of the 
week, which, by the way, was exceedingly fine, I brought Mas- 
ter Hugh nine dollars. The effect of this mark of returning 


good sense on my part, was excellent. He was very much 
pleased ; he took the money, commended me, and told me I 
might have done the same thing the week before. It is a 
blessed thing that the tyrant may not always know the 
thoughts and purposes of his victim. Master Hugh little 
knew my plans. The going to camp-meeting without asking 
his permission, the insolent answers to his reproaches, the 
sulky deportment of the week after being deprived of the 
privilege of hiring my time, had awakened the suspicion that 
I might be cherishing disloyal purposes. My object, therefore, 
in working steadily was to remove suspicion ; and in this I 
succeeded admirably. He probably thought I was never bet- 
ter satisfied with my condition than at the very time I was 
planning my escape. The second week passed, and I again 
carried him my full week's wages — nine dollars ; and so well 
pleased was he that he gave me twenty-jive cents ! and bade 
me " make good use of it." I told him I would do so, for one 
of the uses to which I intended to put it was to pay my fare 
on the " underground railroad." 

Things without went on as usual ; but I was passing through 
the same internal excitement and anxiety which I had expe- 
rienced two years and a half before. The failure in that 
instance was not calculated to increase my confidence in the 
success of this, my second attempt ; and I knew that a second 
failure could not leave me where my first did. I must either the far North or be sent to the far South. Besides the 
exercise of mind from this state of facts, I had the painful 
sensation of being about to separate from a circle of honest 
and warm-hearted friends. The thought of such a separation, 
where the hope of ever meeting again was excluded, and 
where there could be no correspondence, was very painful. It 
is my opinion that thousands more would have. escaped from 
slavery but for the strong affection which bound them to their 
families, relatives, and friends. The daughter was hindered 
by the love she bore her mother, and the father b/ the love 
he bore his wife and children, and so on to the end of the 


chapter. I had no relations in Baltimore, and I saw no proba- 
bility of ever living in the neighborhood of sisters and 
brothers; but the thought of leaving my friends was the 
strongest obstacle to my running away. The last two days 
of the week, Friday and Saturday, were spent mostly in col- 
lecting my things together for my journey. Having worked 
four days that week for my master, I handed him six dollars 
on Saturday night. I seldom spent my Sundays at home, and 
for fear that something might be discovered in my conduct, I 
kept up my custom and absented myself all day. . On Mon- 
day, the third day of September, 1838, in accordance with my 
resolution, I bade farewell to the city of Baltimore, and to that 
slavery which had been my abhorrence from childhood. 




Reasons for not having revealed the manner of escape — Nothing of romance 
in the method — Danger — Free Papers — Unjust tax — Protection papers — 
"Free trade and sailors' rights " — American eagle — Railroad train — Un- 
observing conductor — Capt. McGowan — Honest German — Fears — Safe 
arrival in Philadelphia — Ditto in New York. 

IN the first narrative of my experience in slavery, written 
nearly forty years ago, and in various writings since, I 
have given the public what I considered very good reasons for 
withholding the manner of my escape. In substance these 
reasons were, first, that such publication at any time durfhg 
the existence of slavery might be used by the master against 
the slave, and prevent the future escape of any who might 
adopt the same means that I did. The second reason was, if 
possible, still more binding to silence — for publication of details 
would certainly have put in peril the persons and property of 
those who assisted. Murder itself was not more sternly and 
certainly punished in the State of Maryland, than that of aid- 
ing and abetting the escape of a slave. Many colored men, 
for no other crime than that of giving aid to a fugitive slave, 
have, like Charles T. Torrey, perished in prison. The aboli- 
tion of slavery in my native State and throughout the country, 
and the lapse of time, render the caution hitherto observed no 
longer necessary. But even since the abolition of slavery, I 
have sometimes thought it well enough to baffle curiosity by 
saying that while slavery existed there were good reasons for 
not telling the manner of my escape, and since slavery had 
ceased to exist there was no reason for telling it. I shall now, 
however, cease to avail myself of this formula, and, as far as 
I can, endeavor to satisfy this very natural curiosity. I should 



perhaps have yielded to that feeling sooner, had there been 
anything very heroic or thrilling in the incidents connected 
with my escape, for I am sorry to say I have nothing of that 
sort to tell ; and yet the courage that could risk betrayal and the 
bravery which was ready to encounter death if need be, in pur- 
suit of freedom, were essential features in the undertaking. 
My success was due to address rather than courage ; to good 
luck rather than bravery. My means of escape were provided 
for me by the very men who were making laws to hold and 
bind me more securely in slavery. It was the custom in the 
State of Maryland to require of the free colored people to have 
what were called free papers. This instrument they were 
required to renew very often, and by charging a fee for this 
writing, considerable sums from time to time were collected 
by the State. In these papers the name, age, color, height, 
and form of the free man were described, together with any 
scars or other marks upon his person, which could assist in 
his identification. This device of slavcholding ingenuity, like 
other devices of wickedness, in some measure defeated itself 
— since more than one man could be found to answer the same 
general description. Hence many slaves could escape by per- 
sonating the owner of one set of papers ; and this was often 
done as follows : A slave nearly or sufficiently answering the 
description set forth in the papers, would borrow or hire them 
till he could by their means escape to a free State, and then, 
by mail or otherwise, return them to the owner. The opera- 
tion was a hazardous one for the lender as well as the bor- 
rower. A failure on the part of the fugitive to send back the 
papers would imperil his benefactor, and the discovery of the 
papers in possession of the wrong man would imperil both 
the fugitive and his friend. It was therefore an act of supreme 
trust on the part of a freeman of color thus to put in jeopardy 
his own liberty that another might be free. It was, however, 
not unfrequently bravely done, and was seldom discovered. I 
was not so fortunate as to sufficiently resemble any of my free 
acquaintances as to answer the description of their papers. 


But I had one friend — a sailor — who owned a sailor's protec- 
tion, which answered somewhat the purpose of free papers — 
describing his person, and certifying to the fact that he was a 
free American sailor. The instrument had at its head the 
American eagle, which gave it the appearance at once of an 
authorized document. This protection did not, when in my 
hands, describe its bearer very accurately. Indeed, it called 
for a man much darker than myself, and close examination 
of it would have caused my arrest at the start. In order to 
avoid this fatal scrutiny on the part of the railroad official, I 
had arranged with Isaac Rolls, a hackman, to bring my bag- 
gage to the train just on the moment of its starting, and 
jumped upon the car myself when the train was already in 
motion. Had I gone into the station and offered to purchase 
a ticket, I should have been instantly and carefully examined, 
and undoubtedly arrested. In choosing this plan upon which 
to act, I considered the jostle of the train, and the natural 
haste of the conductor, in a train crowded with passengers, 
and relied upon my skill and address in playing the sailor as 
described in my protection, to do the rest. One element in my 
favor was the kind feeling which prevailed in Baltimore and 
other seaports at the time, towards " those who go down to 
the sea in ships." " Free trade and sailors' rights " expressed 
the sentiment of the country just then. In my clothing I 
was rigged out in sailor style. I had on a red shirt and a tar- 
paulin hat and black cravat, tied in sailor fashion, carelessly 
and loosely about my neck. My knowledge of ships and 
sailor's talk came much to my assistance, for I knew a ship 
from stem to stern, and from keelson to cross-trees, and could 
talk sailor like an " old salt." On sped the train, and I was 
well on the way to Havre de Grace before the conductor came 
into the negro car to collect tickets and examine the papers 
of his black passengers. This was a critical moment in the 
drama. My whole future depended upon the decision of this 
conductor. Agitated I was while this ceremony was proceed- 
ing, but still externally, at least, I wag apparently calm and 


self-possessed. He went on with his duty — examining several 
colored passengers before reaching me. He was somewhat 
harsh in tone, and peremptory in manner until he reached 
me, when, strangely enough, and to my surprise and relief, 
his whole manner changed. Seeing that I did not readily 
produce my free papers, as the other colored persons in the 
car had done, he said to me in a friendly contrast with that 
observed towards the others : " I suppose you have your free 
papers ? " To which I answered : " No, sir ; I never carry my 
free papers to sea with me." " But you have something to 
show that you are a free man, have you not ? " " Yes, sir," I 
answered ; " I have a paper with the American eagle on it, 
and that will carry me round the world." With this I drew 
from my deep sailor's pocket my seaman's protection, as 
before described. The merest glance at the paper satisfied 
him, and he took my fare and went on about his business. 
This moment of time was one of the most anxious I ever 
experienced. Had the conductor looked closely at the paper, 
he could not have failed to discover that it called for a very 
different looking person from myself, and in that case it would 
have been his duty to arrest me on the instant, and send me 
back to Baltimore from the first station. When he left me 
with the assurance that I was all right, though much relieved, 
I realized that I was still in great danger : I was still in Mary- 
land, and subject to arrest at any moment. I saw on the train 
several persons who would have known me in any other clothes, 
and I feared they might recognize me, even in my sailor " rig," 
and report me to the conductor, who would then subject me 
to a closer examination, which I knew well would be fatal 
to me. 

Though I was not a murderer fleeing from justice I felt per- 
haps quite as miserable as such a criminal. The train was 
moving at a very high rate of speed for that time of railroad 
travel, but to my anxious mind, it was moving far too slowly. 
Minutes were hours, and hours were days during this part of 
my flight. After Maryland I was to pass through Delaware-* 


another slave State, where slave catchers generally awaited 
their prey, for it was not in the interior of the State, but on its 
borders, that these human hounds were most vigilant and 
active. The border lines between slavery and freedom were 
the dangerous ones, for the fugitives. The heart of no fox or 
deer, with hungry hounds on his trail, in full chase, could 
have beaten more anxiously or noisily than did mine, from the 
time I left Baltimore till I reached Philadelphia. The pass- 
age of the Susquehanna river at Havre de Grace was made by 
ferry boat at that time, on board of which I met a young col- 
ored man by the name of Nichols, who came very near betray- 
ing me. He was a " hand " on the boat, but instead of mind- 
ing his business, he insisted upon knowing me, and asking me 
dangerous questions as to where I was going, and when I was 
coming back, etc. I got away from my old and inconvenient 
acquaintance as soon as I could decently do so, and went to 
another part of the boat. Once across the river I encountered 
a new danger. Only a few days before I had been at work on 
a revenue cutter, in Mr. Price's ship-yard, under the care of 
Captain McGowan. On the meeting at this point of the two 
trains, the one going south stopped on the track just opposite 
to the one going north, and it so happened that this Captain 
McGowan sat at a window where he could see me very dis- 
tinctly, and would certainly have recognized me had he looked 
at me but for a second. Fortunately, in the hurry of the 
moment, he did not see me ; and the trains soon passed each 
other on their respective ways. But this was not my only 
hair-breadth escape. A German blacksmith whom I knew 
well, was on the train with me, and looked at me very intently 
as if he thought he had seen me somewhere before in his 
travels. I really believe he knew me, but had no heart to 
betray me. At any rate he saw me escaping and held his 

The last point of imminent danger, and the one I dreaded 
most, was Wilmington. Here we left the train and took the 
steamboat for Philadelphia. In making the change here I 


again apprehended arrest, but no one disturbed me, and I was 
soon on the broad and beautiful Delaware, speeding away to 
the Quaker City. On reaching Philadelphia in the afternoon 
I inquired of a colored man how I could get on to New York ? 
He directed me to the Willow street depot, and thither I 
went, taking the train that night. I reached New York Tues- 
day morning, having completed the journey in less than 
twenty-four hours. Such is briefly the manner of my escape 
from slavery — and the end of my experience as a slave. Other 
chapters will tell the story of my life as a freeman. 



Loneliness and Insecurity— " Allender's Jake "—Succored by a Sailor— 
David Ruggles— Marriage— Steamer J. W. Richmond— Stage to New Bed- 
ford — Arrival There — Driver's Detention of Baggage — Nathan Johnson- 
Change of Name— Why called "Douglas "—Obtaining Work— The Lib 
erator and its Editor. 

MY free life began on the third of September, 1838. On the 
morning of the 4th of that month, after an anxious and 
most perilous but safe journey, I found myself in the big city of 
New York, &free man; one more added to the mighty throng 
which like the confused waves of the troubled sea, surged to 
and fro between the lofty walls of Broadway. Though dazzled 
with the wonders which met me on every hand, my thoughts 
could not be much withdrawn from my strange situation. For 
the moment the dreams of my youth, and the hopes of my 
manhood, were completely fulfilled. The bonds that had held me 
to " old master " were broken. No man now had a right to 
call me his slave or assert mastery over me. I was in the 
rough and tumble of an outdoor world, to take my chance 
with the rest of its busy number. I have often been asked, 
how I felt, when first I found myself on free soil. And my 
readers may share the game curiosity. There is scarcely any- 
thing in my experience about which I could not give a more 
satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If 
life is more than breath, and the " quick round of blood," I 
lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was 
a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely 
describe. In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching 
New York, I said : " I felt as one might feel upon escape from 
a den of hungry lions." Anguish and grief, like darkness and 
rain, may be depicted ; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, 



defy the skill of pen or pencil. During ten or fifteen years I 
had, as it were, been dragging a heavy chain, which no strength 
of mine could break ; I was not only a slave, but a slave for 
life. I might become a husband, a father, an aged man, but 
through all, from birth to death, from the cradle to the grave, 
I had felt myself doomed. All efforts I had previously made 
to secure my freedom, had not only failed, but had seemed 
only to rivet my fetters the more firmly, and to render my 
escape more difficult. Baffled, entangled, and discouraged, I 
had at times asked myself the question, May not my condition 
after all be God's work, and ordered for a wise purpose, and 
if so, was not submission my duty ? A contest had in fact 
been going on in my mind for a long time, between the clear 
consciousness of right, and the plausible make-shifts of theol- 
ogy and superstition. The one held me an abject slave — a 
prisoner for life, punished for some transgression in which I 
had no lot or part ; and the other counselled me to manly 
endeavor to secure my freedom. This contest was now ended ; 
my chains were broken, and the victory brought me unspeak- 
able joy. But my gladness was short lived, for I was not yet 
out of the reach and power of the slaveholders. I soon found 
that New York was not quite so free, or so safe a refuge as I 
had supposed, and a sense of loneliness and insecurity again 
oppressed me most sadly. I chanced to meet on the street a 
few hours after my landing, a fugitive slave whom I had once 
known well in slavery. The information received from him 
alarmed me. The fugitive in question was known in Balti- 
more as " Allender' s Jake," but in New York he wore the 
more respectable name of " William Dixon." Jake in law 
was the property of Doctor Allender, and Tolly Allender, the 
son of the doctor, had once made an effort to recapture Mr. 
Dixon, but had failed for want of evidence to support his 
claim. Jake told me the circumstances of this attempt, and 
how narrowly he escaped being sent back to slavery and tor- 
ture. He told me that New York was then full of southerners 
returning from the watering places north ; that the colored 


people of New York were not to be trusted ; that there were 
hired men of my own color who would betray me for a few 
dollars ; that there were hired men ever on the lookout for 
fugitives ; that I must trust no man with my secret ; that I must 
not think of going either upon the wharves, or into any colored 
boarding-house, for all such places were closely watched ; that 
lie was himself unable to help me ; and, in fact, he seemed 
while speaking to me to fear lest I myself might be a spy, and a 
betrayer. Under this apprehension, as I suppose, he showed 
signs of wishing to be rid of me, and with whitewash brush 
in hand, in search of work, he soon disappeared. This pic- 
ture, given by poor " Jake " of New York, was a damper to 
my enthusiasm. My little store of money would soon be 
exhausted, and since it would be unsafe for me to go on the 
wharves for work, and I had no introductions elsewhere, the 
prospect for me was far from cheeful. I saw the wisdom of 
keeping away from the ship-yards, for, if pursued, as I felt 
certain I would be, Mr. Auld would naturally seek me there 
among the calkers. Every door seemed closed against me. I 
was in the midst of an ocean of my fellow-men, and yet a 
perfect stranger to every one. I was without home, without 
acquaintance, without money, without credit, without work, 
and without any definite knowledge as to what course to take, 
or where to look for succor. In such an extremity, a man 
has something beside his new-born freedom to think of. While 
wandering about the streets of New York, and lodging at 
least one night among the barrels on one of the wharves, I 
was indeed free — from slavery, but free from food and shelter 
as well. J kept my secret to myself as long as I could, 
but was compelled at last to seek some one who should 
befriend me, without taking advantage of my destitution to 
betray me. Such an one I found in a sailor named Stuart, a 
warm-hearted and generous fellow, who from his humble home 
on Centre street, saw me standing on the opposite sidewalk, 
near " The Tombs." As he approached me I ventured a 
remark to him which at once enlisted his interest in me. He 


took me to his home to spend the night, and in the morning 
went with me to Mr. David Ruggles, the secretary of the New 
York vigilance committee, a co-worker with Isaac T. Hopper, 
Lewis and Arthur Tappan, Theodore S. Wright, Samuel Cor- 
nish, Thomas Downing, Phillip A. Bell and other true men of 
their time. All these (save Mr. Bell, who still lives, and is 
editor and publisher of a paper called the Elevator, in San 
Francisco) have finished their work on earth. Once in the 
hands of these brave and wise men, I felt comparatively safe. 
With Mr. Ruggles, on the corner of Lispenard and Church 
streets, I was hidden several days, during which time my 
intended wife came on from Baltimore at my call, to share 
the burdens of life with me. She was a free woman, and 
came at once on getting the good news of my safety. We 
were married by Rev. J. W. C. Pennington, then a well-known 
and respected Presbyterian minister. I had no money with 
which to pay the marriage fee, but he seemed well pleased 
with our thanks. 

Mr. Ruggles was the first officer on the underground rail- 
road with whom I met after coming North ; and was indeed 
the only one with whom I had anything to do, till I became 
such an officer myself. Learning that my trade was that of 
a calker, he promptly decided that the best place for me was 
in New Bedford, Mass. He told me that many ships for 
whaling voyages were fitted out there, and that I might there 
find work at my trade, and make a good living. So on the 
day of the marriage ceremony, we took our little luggage to 
the steamer John W. Richmond, which at that time was one 
of the line running between New York and Newport, R. I. 
Forty-three years ago colored travelers were not permitted in 
the cabin, nor allowed abaft the paddle-wheels of a steam ves- 
sel. They were compelled, whatever the weather might be, 
whether cold or hot, wet or dry, to spend the night on deck. 
Unjust as this regulation was, it did not trouble us much. 
We had fared much harder before. We arrived at Newport 
the next morning, and soon after an old-fashioned stage-coach 


with " New Bedford " in large, yellow letters on its sides, came 
down to the wharf. I had not money enough to pay our fare, 
and stood hesitating to know what to do. Fortunately for us, 
there were two Quaker gentlemen who were about to take pas- 
sage on the stage, — Friends William C. Taber and Joseph 
Ricketson, — who at once discerned our true situation, and in 
a peculiarly quiet way, addressing me, Mr. Taber said : " Thee 
get in." I never obeyed an order with more alacrity, and we 
were soon on our way to our new home. When we reached 
" Stone Bridge " the passengers alighted for breakfast, and 
paid their fares to the driver. We took no breakfast, and 
when asked for our fares I told the driver I would make it 
right with him when we reached New Bedford. I expected 
some objection to this on his part, but he made none. When, 
however, we reached New Bedford he took our baggage, includ- 
ing three music books, — two of them collections by Dyer, and 
one by Shaw, — and held them until I was able to redeem them 
by paying to him the sums due for our rides. This was soon 
done, for Mr. Nathan Johnson not only received me kindly, 
and hospitably, but, on being informed about our baggage, at 
once loaned me the two dollars with which to square accounts 
with the stage-driver. Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Johnson reached 
a good old age, and now rest from their labors. I am under 
many grateful obligations to them. They not only " took me 
in when a stranger, " and " fed me when hungry," but taught 
me how to make an honest living. 

Thus, in a fortnight after my flight from Maryland, I was 
safe in New Bedford, — a citizen of the grand old common- 
wealth of Massachusetts. 

Once initiated into my new life of freedom, and assured by 
Mr. Johnson that I need not fear recapture in that city, a com- 
paratively unimportant question arose, as to the name by which 
I should be known thereafter, in my new relation as a free 
man. The name given me by my dear mother was no less 
pretentious and long than Frederick Augustus Washington 
Bailey. I had, however, while living in Maryland disposed of 

At the Wharf in Newport. 


the Augustus Washington, and retained only Frederick Bailey. 
Between Baltimore and New Bedford, the better to conceal 
myself from the slave-hunters, I had parted with Bailey and 
called myself Johnson ; but finding that in New Bedford the 
Johnson family was already so numerous as to cause some 
confusion in distinguishing one from another, a change in this 
name seemed desirable. Nathan Johnson, mine host, was 
emphatic as to this necessity, and wished me to allow him to 
select a name for me. I consented, and he called me by my 
present name, — the one by which I have been known for three 
and forty years, — Frederick Douglass. Mr. Johnson had just 
been reading the " Lady of the Lake," and so pleased was he 
with its great character that he wished me to bear his name. 
Since reading that charming poem myself, I have often thought 
that, considering the noble hospitality and manly character of 
Nathan Johnson, black man though he was, he, far more than 
I, illustrated the virtues of the Douglas of Scotland. Sure 
am I that if any slave-catcher had entered his domicile with a 
view to my recapture, Johnson would have been like him of 
the " stalwart hand." 

The reader may be surprised, that living in Baltimore as I 
had done for many years, when I tell the honest truth of the 
impressions I had in some way conceived of the social and 
material condition of the people at the north. I had no proper 
idea of the wealth, refinement, enterprise, and high civiliza- 
tion of this section of the country. My Columbian Orator, 
almost my only book, had done nothing to enlighten me con- 
cerning northern society. I had been taught that slavery was 
the bottom-fact of all wealth. • With this foundation idea, I 
came naturally to the conclusion that poverty must be the 
general condition of the people of the free States. A white 
man holding no slaves in the country from which I came, was 
usually an ignorant and poverty-stricken man. Men of this 
class were contemptuously called " poor white trash." Hence 
I supposed that since the non-slaveholders at the south were 
ignorant, poor, and degraded as a class, the non-slaveholders at 


the north' must be in a similar condition. New Bedford there- 
fore, which at that time was really the richest city in the 
Union, in proportion to its population, took me greatly by sur- 
prise, in the evidences it gave of its solid wealth and grandeur. 
I found that even the laboring classes lived in better houses, 
that their houses were more elegantly furnished, and were 
more abundantly supplied with conveniences and comforts, 
than the houses of many who owned slaves on the Eastern 
Shore of Maryland. This was true not only of the white 
people of that city, but it was so of my friend, Mr. Johnson. 
He lived in a nicer house, dined at a more ample board, was 
the owner of more books, the reader of more newspapers, was 
more conversant with the moral, social, and political condition 
of the country and the world than nine-tenths of the slave- 
holders in all Talbot county. I was not long in finding the 
cause of the difference in these respects, between the people of 
the north and south. It was the superiority of educated mind 
over mere brute force. I will not detain the reader by extended 
illustrations as to how my understanding was enlightened on 
this subject. On the wharves of New Bedford I received 
my first light. I saw there industry without bustle, labor 
without noise, toil — honest, earnest, and exhaustive, with- 
out the whip. There was no loud singing or hallooing, 
as at the wharves of southern ports when ships were load- 
ing or unloading ; no loud cursing or quarreling ; every- 
thing went on as smoothly as well-oiled machinery. One of 
the first incidents which impressed me with the superior men- 
tal character of labor in the north over that of the south, was 
in the manner of loading and unloading vessels. In a southern 
port twenty or thirty hands would be employed to do what five 
or six men, with the help of one ox, would do at the wharf in 
New Bedford. Main strength — human muscle — unassisted by 
intelligent skill, was slavery's method of labor. With a capi- 
tal of about sixty dollars in the shape of a good-natured old 
ox, attached to the end of a stout rope, New Bedford did the 
work of ten or twelve thousand dollars, represented in the 


bones and muscles of slaves, and did it far better. In a word, 
I found everything managed with a much more' scrupulous 
regard to economy, both of men and things, time and strength, 
than in the country from which I had come. Instead of going 
a hundred yards to the spring, the maid-servant had a well or 
pump at her elbow. The wood used for fuel was kept dry and 
snugly piled away for winter. Here were sinks, drains, self- 
shutting gates, pounding-barrels, washing-machines, wringing- 
machines, and a hundred other contrivances for saving time 
and money. The ship-repairing docks showed the same 
thoughtful wisdom as seen elsewhere. Everybody seemed in 
earnest. The carpenter struck the nail on its head, and the 
calkers wasted no strength in idle flourishes of their mallets. 
Ships brought here for repairs were made stronger and better 
than when new. I could have landed in no part of the United 
States where I should have found a more striking and gratify- 
ing contrast, not only to life generally in the South, but in the 
condition of the colored people there than in New Bedford. 
No colored man was really free while residing in a slave 
State. He was ever more or less subject to the condition of 
his slave brother. In his color was his badge of bondage. I 
saw in $Jew Bedford the nearest approach to freedom and 
equality that I had ever seen. I was amazed when Mr. John- 
son told me that there was nothing in the laws or constitution 
of Massachusetts, that would prevent a colored man from being 
governor of the State, if the people should see fit to elect him. 
There too the black man's children attended the same public 
schools with the white man's children, and apparently 
without objection from any quarter. To impress me with my 
security from recapture, and return to slavery, Mr. Johnson 
assured me that no slaveholder could take a slave out of New 
Bedford ; that there were men there who would lay down 
their lives to save me from such a fate. A threat was once 
made by a colored man to inform a southern master where his 
runaway slave could be found. As soon as this threat became 
known to the colored people they were furious. A notice was 


read from the pulpit of the Third Christian church (colored) 
for a public meeting, when important business would be trans- 
acted (not stating what the important business was). In the 
meantime special measures had been taken to secure the 
attendance of the would-be Judas, and these had proved suc- 
cessful, for when the hour of meeting arrived, ignorant of the 
object for which they were called together, the offender was 
promptly in attendance. All the usual formalities were gone 
through with, the prayer, appointments of president, secreta- 
ries, etc. Then the president, with an air of great solemnity, 
rose and said : " Well, friends and brethren, we have got him 
here, and I would recommend that you, young men, should 
take him outside the door and kill him." This was enough ; 
there was a rush for the villain, who would probably have 
been killed but for his escape by an open window. He was 
never seen again in New Bedford. 

The fifth day after my arrival I put on the clothes of a 
common laborer, and went upon the wharves in search of 
work. On my way down Union street I saw a large pile of 
coal in front of the house of Rev. Ephraim Peabody, the Uni- 
tarian minister. I went to the kitchen door and asked the 
privilege of bringing in and putting away this coal. " What 
will you charge?" said the lady. "I will leave that to you, 
madam." " You may put it away," she said. I was not long 
in accomplishing the job, when the dear lady put into my hand 
two silver half dollars. To understand the emotion which 
swelled my heart as I clasped this money, realizing that I had 
no master who could take it from me — that it was mine — that 
my hands were my own, and could earn more of the precious 
coin — one must have been in some sense himself a slave. My 
next job was stowing a sloop at Uncle Gid. Howland's wharf 
with a cargo of oil for New York. I was not only a freeman 
but a free-working man, and no Master Hugh stood ready at 
the end of the week to seize my hard earnings. 

The season was growing late and work was plenty. Ships 
were being fitted out for whaling, and much wood was used in 


storing them. The sawing this wood was considered a good 
job. With the help of old Friend Johnson (blessings on his 
memory) I got a " saw " and " buck " and went at it. When 
I went into a store to buy a cord with which to brace up my 
saw in the frame, I asked for a " tip's " worth of cord. The 
man behind the counter looked rather sharply at me, and said 
with equal sharpness, " You don't belong about here." I was 
alarmed, and thought I had betrayed myself. A fip in Mary- 
land was six and a quarter cents, called fourpence in Massa- 
chusetts. But no harm came, except my fear, from the 
" fipenny-bit " blunder, and I confidently and cheerfully went 
to work with my saw and buck. It was new business to me, 
but I never did better work, or more of it in the same space of 
time for Covey, the negro-breaker, than I did for myself in 
these earliest years of my freedom. 

Notwithstanding the just and humane sentiment of New 
Bedford three and forty years ago, the place was not entirely 
free from race and color prejudice. The good influence of the 
Roaches, Rodmans, Arnolds, Grinnells, and Robesons did not 
pervade all classes of its people. The test of the real civiliza- 
tion of the community came when I applied for work at my 
trade, and then my repulse was emphatic and decisive. It so 
happened that Mr. Rodney French, a wealthy and enterprising 
citizen, distinguished as an anti-slavery man, was fitting out a 
vessel for a whaling voyage, upon which there was a heavy 
job of calking and coppering to be done. I had some skill in 
both branches, and applied to Mr. French for work. He, gen- 
erous man that he was, told me he would employ me, and I 
might go at once to the vessel. I obeyed him, but upon reach- 
ing the float-stage, where other calkers were at work, I was 
told that every white man would leave the ship in her unfin- 
ished condition, if I struck a blow at my trade upon her. This 
uncivil, inhuman, and selfish treatment was not so shocking 
and scandalous in my eyes at the time as it now appears to 
me. Slavery had inured me to hardships that made ordinary 
trouble sit lightly upon me. Could I have worked at my trade 


I could have earned two dollars a day, but as a common laborer 
I received but one dollar. The difference was of great import- 
ance to me, but if I could not get two dollars, I was glad to 
get one ; and so I went to work for Mr. French as a common 
laborer. The consciousness that I was free — no longer a 
slave — kept me cheerful under this, and many similar pro- 
scriptions, which I was destined to meet in New Bedford, and 
elsewhere on the free soil of Massachusetts. For instance, 
though white and colored children attended the same schools, 
and were treated kindly by their teachers, the New Bedford 
Lyceum refused till several years after my residence in that 
city to allow any colored person to attend the lectures deliv- 
ered in its hall. Not until such men as Hon. Chas. Sumner, 
Theodore Parker, Ralph W. Emerson, and Horace Mann 
refused to lecture in their course while there was such a 
restriction, was it abandoned. 

Becoming satisfied that I could not rely on my trade in New 
Bedford to give me a living, I prepared myself to do any kind 
of work that came to hand. I sawed wood, shoveled coal, dug 
cellars, moved rubbish from back-yards, worked on the 
wharves, loaded and unloaded vessels, and scoured their 

This was an uncertain and unsatisfactory mode of life, for 
it kept me too much of the time in search of work. For- 
tunately it was not to last long. One of the gentlemen of 
whom I have spoken as being in company with Mr. Taber on 
the Newport wharf, when he said to me " thee get in," was 
Mr. Joseph Ricketson ; and he was the proprietor of a large 
candle works in the south part of the city. In this " candle 
works " as it was called, though no candles were manufactured 
there, by the kindness of Mr. Ricketson, I found what is of 
the utmost importance to a young man just starting in life — 
constant employment and regular wages. My work in this 
oil refinery required good wind and ntuscle. Large casks of 
oil were to be moved from place to place, and much heavy 
lifting to be done. Happily I was not deficient in the requi- 


site qualities. Young (21 years), strong, and active, and 
ambitious to do my full share, I soon made myself useful, and 
I think liked by the men who worked with me, though they 
were all white. I was retained here as long as there was any- 
thing for me to do ; when I went again to the wharves and 
obtained work as a laborer on two vessels which belonged to 
Mr. George Howland, and which were being repaired and 
fitted up for whaling. My employer was a man of great 
industry : a hard driver, but a good paymaster, and I got on 
well with him. I was not only fortunate in finding work 
with Mr. Howland, but in my work-fellows. I have seldom 
met three working men more intelligent than were John 
Briggs, Abraham Rodman, and Solomon Pennington, who 
labored with me on the " Java" and "Golconda." They were 
sober, thoughtful, and upright, thoroughly imbued with the 
spirit of liberty, and I am much indebted to them for many 
valuable ideas and impressions. They taught me that all 
colored men were not light-hearted triflers, incapable of serious 
thought or effort. My next place of work was at the brass 
foundry owned by Mr. Richmond. My duty here was to blow 
the bellows, swing the crane, and empty the flasks in which 
castings were made ; and at times this was hot and heavy 
work. The articles produced here were mostly for ship work, 
and in the busy season the foundry was in operation night and 
day. I have often worked two nights and each working day 
of the week. My foreman, Mr. Cobb, was a good man, and 
more than once protected me from abuse that one or more of 
the hands was disposed to throw upon me. While in this 
situation I had little time for mental improvement. Hard 
work, night and day, over a furnace hot enough to keep the 
metal running like water, was more favorable to action than 
thought; yet here I often nailed a newspaper to the post 
near my bellows, and read while I was performing the up and 
down motion of the heavy beam by which the bellows was 
inflated and discharged. It was the pursuit of knowledge 
under difficulties, and I look back to it now after so many 


years with some complacency and a little wonder that I could 
have been so earnest and persevering in any pursuit other 
than for my daily bread. I certainly saw nothing in the con- 
duct of those around to inspire me with such interest : they 
were all devoted exclusively to what their hands found to do. 
I am glad to be able to say that during my engagement in this 
foundry, no complaint was ever made against me, that I did 
not do my work, and do it well. The bellows which I worked 
by main strength was after I left moved by a steam engine. 

I had been living four or five months in New Bedford when 
there came a young man to me with a copy of the Liberator, 
the paper edited by William Lloyd Garrison, and published 
by Isaac Knapp, and asked me to subscribe for it. I told him 
I had but just escaped from slavery, and was of course very 
poor, and had no money then to pay for it. He was very will- 
ing to take me as a subscriber, notwithstanding, and from this 
time I was brought into contact with the mind of Mr. Garri- 
son, and his paper took a place in my heart second only to 
the Bible. It detested slavery, and made no truce with the 
traffickers in the bodies and souls of men. It preached human 
brotherhood ; it exposed hypocrisy and wickedness in high 
places ; it denounced oppression, and with all the solemnity of 
" Thus saith the Lord," demanded the complete emancipation 
of my race. I loved this paper and its editor. He seemed to 
me an all-sufficient match to every opponent, whether they 
spoke in the name of the law or the gospel His words were 
full of holy fire, and straight to the point. Something of a 
hero-worshiper by nature, here was one to excite my admira- 
tion and reverence. 

Soon after becoming a reader of the Liberator it was my 
privilege to listen to a lecture in Liberty Hall, by Mr. Garri- 
son, its editor. He was then a young man, of a singularly 
pleasing countenance, and earnest and impressive manner. On 
this occasion he announced nearly all his heresies. His Bible 
A\as his text book — held sacred as the very word of the Eter- 
nal Father. He believed in sinless perfection, complete sub- 


mission to insults and injuries, and literal obedience to the 
injunction if smitten " on one cheek to turn the other also." 
Not only was Sunday a Sabbath, but all days were Sabbaths, 
and to be kept holy. All sectarianism was false and mis- 
chievous — the regenerated throughout the world being mem- 
bers of one body, and the head Christ Jesus. Prejudice 
against color was rebellion against God. Of all men beneath 
the sky, the slaves because most neglected and despised, were 
nearest and dearest to his great heart. Those ministers who 
defended slavery from the Bible were of their "father the 
devil " ; and those churches which fellowshiped slaveholders 
as Christians, were synagogues of Satan, and our nation was a 
nation of liars. He was never loud and noisy, but calm and 
serene as a summer sky, and as pure. " You are the man — 
the Moses, raised up by God, to deliver his modern Israel from 
bondage," was the spontaneous feeling of my heart, as I sat 
away back in the hall and listened to his mighty words, — 
mighty in truth, — mighty in their simple earnestness. I had 
not long been a reader of the Liberator, and a listener to its 
editor, before I got a clear comprehension of the principles of 
the anti-slavery movement. I had already its spirit, and only 
needed to understand its principles and measures, and as I 
became acquainted with these my hope for the ultimate free- 
dom of my race increased. Every week the Liberator came, 
and every week I made myself master of its contents. All 
the anti-slavery meetings held in New Bedford I promptly 
attended, my heart bounding at every true utterance against 
the slave system, and every rebuke of it by its friends and 
supporters. Thus passed the first three years of my free Jife. 
I had not then dreamed of the possibility of my becoming a 
public advocate of the cause so deeply imbedded in my heart. 
It was enough for me to listen, to receive, and applaud the 
great words of others, and only whisper in private, among the 
white laborers on the wharves and elsewhere, the truths which 
burned in my heart. 



Anti-Slavery Convention at Nantucket — First Speech — Much Sensation — 
Extraordinary Speech of Mr. Garrison — Anti-Slavery Agency — Youthful 
Enthusiasm — Fugitive Slaveship Doubted — Experience in Slavery Written 
— Danger of Recapture. 

IN the summer of 1841 a grand anti-slavery convention was 
held in Nantucket, under the auspices of Mr. Garrison and 
his friends. I had taken no holiday since establishing myself in 
New Bedford, and feeling the need of a little rest, I determined 
on attending the meeting, though I had no thought of taking 
part in any of its proceedings. Indeed, I was not aware that 
any one connected with the convention so much as knew my 
name. Mr. William C. Coffin, a prominent abolitionist in 
those days of trial, had heard me speaking to my colored 
friends in the little school house on Second street, where we 
worshiped. He sought me out in the crowd and invited me 
to say a few words to the convention. Thus sought out, and 
thus invited, I was induced to express the feelings inspired 
by the occasion, and the fresh recollection of the scenes 
through which I had passed as a slave. It was with the 
utmost difficulty that I could stand erect, or that I could com- 
mand and articulate two words without hesitation and stam- 
mering. I trembled in every limb. I am not sure that my 
embarrassment was not the most effective part of my speech, 
if speech it could be called. At any rate, this is about the 
only part of my performance that I now distinctly remember. 
The audience sympathized with me at once, and from having 
been remarkably quiet, became much excited. Mr. Garrison 
followed me, taking me as his text, and now, whether I had 
made an eloquent plea in behalf of freedom, or not, his was 



one, never to be forgotten. Those who had heard him often- 
est, and had known him longest, were astonished at his mas- 
terry effort. For the time he possessed that almost fabulous 
inspiration, often referred, to but seldom attained, in which a 
public meeting is transformed, as it were, into a single indi- 
viduality, the orator swaying a thousand heads and hearts at 
once, and by the simple majesty of his all-controlling thought, 
converting his hearers into the express image of his own soul. 
That night there were at least a thousand Garrisonians in 
Nantucket ! 

At the close of this great meeting I was duly waited on by 
Mr. John A. Collins, then the general agent of the Massachu- 
setts Anti-Slavery Society, and urgently solicited by him to 
become an agent of that society, and publicly advocate its 
principles. I was reluctant to take the proffered position. I 
had not been quite three years from slavery and was honestly 
distrustful of my ability, and I wished to be excused. Besides, 
publicity might discover me to my master, and many other 
objections presented themselves. But Mr. Collins was not to 
be refused, and I finally consented to go out for three months, 
supposing I should in that length of time come to the end of 
my story and my consequent usefulness. 

Here opened for me a new life — a life for which I had had 
no preparation. Mr. Collins used to say when introducing me 
to an audience, I was a " graduate from the peculiar institu- 
tion, with my diploma written on my hack? The three years 
of my freedom had been spent in the hard school of adversity. 
My hands seemed to be furnished with something like a 
leather coating, and I had marked out for myself a life of 
rough labor, suited to the hardness of my hands, as a means 
of supporting my family and rearing my children. 

Young, ardent, and hopeful, I entered upon this new life in 
the full gush of unsuspecting enthusiasm. The cause was 
good, the men engaged in it were gtod, the means to attain its 
triumph, good. Heaven's blessing must attend all, and free- 
dom must soon be given to the millions pining under a ruth- 

246 ^8 ^ CHATTEL. 

less bondage. My whole heart went with the holy cause, and 
iny most fervent prayer to the Almighty Disposer of the hearts 
of men, was continually offered for its early triumph. In this 
enthusiastic spirit I dropped into the ranks of freedom's friends 
and went forth to the battle. For a time I was made to for- 
get that my skin was dark and my hair crisped. For a time I 
regretted that I could not have shared the hardships and dan- 
gers endured by the earlier workers for the slave's release. I 
found, however, full soon that my enthusiasm had been 
entravagant, that hardships and dangers were not all over, 
and that the life now before me had its shadows also, as well 
as its sunbeams. 

Among the first duties assigned me on entering the ranks 
was to travel in company with Mr. George Foster to secure 
subscribers to the Anti-Slavery Standard and the Liberator. 
With him I traveled and lectured through the eastern counties 
of Massachusetts. Much interest was awakened — large meet- 
ings assembled. Many came, no doubt from curiosity to hear 
what a negro could say in his own cause. I was generally 
introduced as a " chattel ," — a " thing " — a piece of southern 
property — the chairman assuring the audience that it could 
speak. Fugitive slaves were rare then, and as a fugitive slave 
lecturer, I had the advantage of being a " bran new fact " — 
the first one out. Up to that time, a colored man was deemed 
a fool who confessed himself a runaway slave, not only because 
of the danger to which he exposed himself of being retaken, 
but because it was a confession of a very low origin. Some 
of my colored friends in New Bedford thought very badly of 
my wisdom in thus exposing and degrading myself. The only 
precaution I took at the beginning, to prevent Master Thomas 
from knowing where I was and what I was about, was the 
withholding my former name, my master's name, and the 
name of the State and county from which I came. During 
the first three or four months my speeches were almost exclu- 
sively made up of narrations of my own personal experience 
as a slave. " Let us have the facts," said the people. So also 


said Friend George Foster, who always wished to pin me down 
to my simple narrative. " Give us the facts," said Collins, 
" we will take care of the philosophy." Just here arose some 
embarrassment. It was impossible for me to repeat the same 
old story, month after month, and to keep up my interest in 
it. It was new to the people, it is true, but it was an old story 
to me ; and to go through with it night after night, was a task 
altogether too mechanical for my nature. " Tell your story, 
Frederick," would whisper my revered friend, Mr. Garrison, 
as I stepped upon the platform. I could not always follow 
the injunction, for I was now reading and thinking. New 
views of the subject were being presented to my mind. It 
did not entirely satisfy me to narrate wrongs ; I felt like 
denouncing them. I could not always curb my moral indigna- 
tion for the perpetrators of slaveholding villainy, long enough 
for a circumstantial statement of the facts which I felt almost 
sure everybody must know. Besides, I was growing, and 
needed room. " People won't believe you ever was a slave, 
Frederick, if you keep on this way," said friend Foster. " Be 
yourself," said Collins, " and tell your story." " Better have 
a little of the plantation speech than not," it was said to me ; " it 
is not best that you seem too learned." These excellent friends 
were actuated by the best of motives, and were not altogether 
wrong in their advice ; and still I must speak just the word 
that seemed to me the word to be spoken by me. 

At last the apprehended trouble came. People doubted if 
I had ever been a slave. They said I did not talk like a slave, 
look like a slave, nor act like a slave, and that they believed I 
had never been south of Mason and Dixon's line. " He don't 
tell us where he came from — what his master's name was, nor 
how he got away ; besides he is educated, and is, in this, a 
contradiction of all the facts we have concerning the ignor- 
ance of the slaves." Thus I was in a pretty fair way to be 
denounced as an impostor. The committee of the Massachu- 
setts Anti-Slavery Society knew all the facts in my case, and 
agreed with me thus far in the prudence of keeping them 


private ; but going down the aisles of the churches in which 
my meetings were held, and hearing the out-spoken Yankees 
repeatedly saying, "He's never been a slave, I'll warrant 
you," I resolved to dispel all doubt at no distant day, by such 
a revelation of facts as could not be made by any other than 
a genuine fugitive. In a little less than four years, therefore, 
after becoming a public lecturer, I was induced to write out 
the leading facts connected with my experience in slavery, 
giving names of persons, places, and dates — thus putting it in 
the power of any who doubted to ascertain the truth or false- 
hood of my story. This statement soon became known in 
Maryland, and I had reason to believe that an effort would be 
made to recapture me. 

It is not probable that any open attempt to secure me as a 
slave could have succeeded, further than the obtainment, by 
my master, of the money value of my bones and sinews. For- 
tunately for me, in the four years of my labors 'in the aboli- 
tion cause, I had gained many friends who would have suffered 
themselves to be taxed to almost any extent to save me from 
slavery. It was felt that I had committed the double offense 
of running away and exposing the secrets and crimes of 
slavery and slaveholders. There was a double motive for 
seeking my re-enslavement — avarice and vengeance; and 
while, as I have said, there was little probability of success- 
ful recapture, if attempted openly, I was constantly in danger 
of being spirited away at a moment when my friends could 
render me no assistance. In traveling about from place to 
place, often alone, I was much exposed to this sort of attack. 
Any one cherishing the design to betray me, could easily do 
so by simply tracing my whereabouts through the anti-slavery 
journals, for my movements and meetings were made through 
these in advance. My friends, Mr. Garrison and Mr. Phillips, 
had no faith in the power of Massachusetts to protect me in 
my right to liberty. Public sentiment and the law, in their 
opinion, would hand me over to the tormentors. Mr. Phillips 
especially considered me in danger, and said when I showed 


him the manuscript of my story, if in my place, he would 
" throw it into the fire." Thus the reader will observe that 
the overcoming one difficulty only opened the way for another ; 
and that though I had reached a free State, and had attained 
a position for public usefulness, I was still under the liability 
of losing all I had gained. 



Work hi Rhode Island — Dorr War — Recollections of old friends — Further 
labors in Rhode Island and elsewhere in New England. 

IN the State of Rhode Island, under the leadership of 
Thomas W. Dorr, an effort was made in 1841 to set aside 
the old colonial charter, under which that State had lived and 
flourished since the Revolution, and to replace it with a new 
constitution having such improvements as it was thought that 
time and experience had shown to be wise and necessary. This 
new constitution was especially framed to enlarge the bases 
of representation so far as the white people of the State were 
concerned — to abolish an odious property qualification, and to 
confine the right of suffrage to white male citizens only. 
Mr. Dorr was himself a well-meaning man, and, after his 
fashion, a man of broad and progressive views, quite in 
advance of the party with which he acted. To gain their sup- 
port, he consented to this restriction to a class, a right which 
ought to be enjoyed by all citizens. In this he consulted policy 
rather than right, and at last shared the fate of all compro- 
misers and trimmers, for he was disastrously defeated. The 
prescriptive features of his constitution shocked the sense of 
right and roused the moral indignation of the abolitionists of 
the State, a class which would otherwise have gladly co- 
operated with him, at the same time that it did nothing to win 
support from the conservative class which clung to the old 
charter. Anti-slavery men wanted a new constitution, but 
they did not want a defective instrument which required 
reform at the start. The result was that such men as William 
M. Chase, Thomas Davis, George L. Clark, Asa Fairbanks, 
Alphonso Janes, and others of Providence, the Perry brothers 



of Westerly, John Brown and C. C. Eldridge of East Green- 
wich, Daniel Mitchell, William Adams, and Robert Shove of 
Pawtucket, Peleg Clark, Caleb Kelton, G. J. Adams, and the 
Anthonys and Goulds of Coventry and vicinity, Edward Harris 
of Woonsocket, and other abolitionists of the State, decided 
that the time had come when the people of Rhode Island 
might be taught a more comprehensive gospel of human rights 
than had gotten itself into this Dorr constitution. The public 
mind was awake, and one class of its people at least was ready 
to work with us to the extent of seeking to defeat the proposed 
constitution, though their reasons for such work were far 
different from ours. Stephen S. Foster, Parker Pillsbury, 
Abby Kelley, James Monroe, and myself, were called into the 
State to advocate equal rights as against this narrow and pre- 
scriptive constitution. The work to which we were invited 
was not free from difficulty. The majority of the people were 
evidently with the new constitution ; even the word white in 
it chimed well with the popular prejudice against the colored 
race, and at the first helped to make the movement popular. 
On the other hand, all the arguments which the Dorr men 
could urge against a property qualification for suffrage were 
equally cogent against a color qualification, and this was our 
advantage. But the contest was intensely bitter and exciting. 
We were as usual denounced as intermeddlers (carpet-bagger 
had not come into use at that time) and were told to mind 
our own business, and the like, a mode of defense common to 
men when called to account for mean and discreditable conduct. 
Stephen S. Foster, Parker Pillsbury, and the rest of us were 
not the kind of men to be ordered off by that sort of opposi- 
tion. We cared nothing for the Dorr party on the one hand, 
nor the " law and order party " on the other. What we wanted, 
and what we labored to obtain, was a constitution free from 
the narrow, selfish, and senseless limitation of the word white. 
Naturally enough when we said a strong and striking word 
against the Dorr Constitution the conservatives were pleased 
and applauded, while the Dorr men were disgusted and indig- 


nant. Foster and Pillsbuiy were like the rest of us, young, 
strong, and at their best in this contest. The splendid vehe- 
mence of the one, and the weird and terrible denunciations of 
the other, never failed to stir up mobocratic wrath wherever 
they spoke. Foster especially, was effective in this line. His 
theory was that he must make converts or mobs. If neither 
came he charged it either to his want of skill or his unfaithful- 
ness. I was much with Mr. Foster during the tour in Rhode 
Island, and though at times he seemed to me extravagant and 
needlessly offensive in his manner of presenting his ideas, yet 
take him for all in all, he was one of the most impressive 
advocates the cause of the American slave ever had. No white 
man ever made the black man's cause more completely his 
own. Abby Kelley, since Abby Kelley Foster, was perhaps 
the most successful of any of us. Her youth and simple 
Quaker beauty combined with her wonderful earnestness, her 
large knowledge and great logical power, bore down all oppo- 
sition in the end, wherever she spoke, though she was before 
pelted with foul eggs, and no less foul words from the noisy 
mobs which attended us. 

Monroe and I were less aggressive than either of our co- 
workers, and of course did not provoke the same resistance. 
He at least, had the eloquence that charms, and the skill that 
disarms. I think that our labors in Rhode Island during this 
Dorr excitement did more to abolitionize the State, than any 
previous, or subsequent work. It was the " tide," " taken at 
the flood." One effect of those labors was to induce the old 
" Law and Order " party, when it set about making its new 
constitution, to avoid the narrow folly of the Dorrites, and 
make a constitution which should not abridge any man's rights 
on account of race or color. Such a constitution was finally 

Owing perhaps to my efficiency in this campaign I was for a 
while employed in farther labors in Rhode Island by the State 
Anti-Slavery Society, and made there many friends to my 
cause as well as to mvself. As a class the abolitionists of this 


State partook of the spirit of its founder. They had their own 
opinions, were independent, and called no man master. I 
have reason to remember them most gratefully. They received 
me as a man and a brother, when I was new from the house 
of bondage, and had few of the graces derived from free and 
refined society. They took me with earnest hand to their 
homes and hearths, and made me feel that though I wore the 
burnished livery of the sun I was still a countryman and kins- 
man of whom they were never ashamed. I can never forget 
the Clarks, Keltons, Chaces, Browns, Adams, Greenes, Sis- 
sons, Eldredges, Mitchells, Shoves, Anthonys, Applins, Janes, 
Goulds, and Fairbanks, and many others. 

While thus remembering the noble anti-slavery men and 
women of Rhode Island, I do not forget that I suffered much 
roui>-h usage within her borders. It was like all the northern 
States at that time, under the influence of slave power, and 
often showed a proscription and persecuting spirit, especially 
upon its railways, steamboats, and public houses. The Ston- 
ington route was a "hard road" for a colored man "to 
.travel " in that day. I was several times dragged from the 
cars for the crime of being colored. On the Sound between 
New York and Stonington, there were the same proscriptions 
which I have before named as enforced on the steamboats 
running between New York and Newport. No colored man 
was allowed abaft the wheel, and in all seasons of the year, in 
heat or cold, wet or dry, the deck was his only place. If I 
would lie down at night I must do so upon the freight on 
deck, and this in cold weather was not a very comfortable 
bed. When traveling in company with my white friends I 
always urged them to leave me and go into the cabin and take 
their comfortable berths. I saw no reason why they should be 
miserable because I was. Some of them took my advice very 
readily. I confess, however, that while I was entirely honest 
in urging them to go, and saw no principle that should bind 
them to stay and suffer with me, I always felt a little nearer 


to those who did not take my advice and persisted in sharing 
my hardships with me. 

There is something in the world above fixed rules and the 
logic of right and wrong, and there is some foundation for 
recognizing works, which may be called works of supereroga- 
tion. Wendell Phillips, James Monroe, and William White, 
were always dear to me for their nice feeling at this point. I 
have known James Monroe to pull his coat about him and 
crawl upon the cotton bales between decks and pass the night 
with me, without a murmur. Wendell Phillips would never 
go into a first-class car while I was forced into what was called 
the Jim Crow car. True men they were, who could accept 
welcome at no man's table where I was refused. I speak of these 
gentlemen, not as singular or exceptional cases, but as repre- 
sentatives of a large class of the early workers for the aboli- 
tion of slavery. As a general rule there was little difficulty 
in obtaining suitable places in New England after 1840, where 
I could plead the cause of my people. The abolitionists had 
passed the Red Sea of mobs, and had conquered the right to a 
respectful hearing. I, however, found several towns in which 
the people closed their doors and refused to entertain the sub- 
ject. Notably among these was Hartford, Conn., and Grafton, 
Mass. In the former place Messrs. Garrison, Hudson, Foster, 
Abby Kelley, and myself determined to hold our meetings 
under the open sky, which we did in a little court under the 
eaves of the " sanctuary " ministered unto by the Rev. Dr. 
Hawes, with much satisfaction to ourselves, and I think with 
advantage to our cause. In Grafton I was alone, and there 
was neither house, hall, church, nor market-place in which I 
could speak to the people, but determined to speak I went to 
the hotel and borrowed a dinner bell with which in hand I 
passed through the principal streets, ringing the bell and cry- 
ing out, " Xotice ! Frederick Douglass, recently a slave, will 
lecture on American Slavery, on Grafton Common, this evening 
at 7 o'clock. Those who would like to hear of the workings of 
slavery by one of the slaves are respectfully invited to attend." 


This notice brought out a large audience, after which the 
largest church in town was open to me. Only in one instance 
was I compelled to pursue this course thereafter, and that was 
in Manchester, N. H., and my labors there were followed by 
similar results. When people found that I would be heard, 
they saw it was the part of wisdom to open the way for me. 

My treatment in the use of public conveyances about these 
times was extremely rough, especially on the " Eastern Rail- 
road, from Boston to Portland." On that road, as on many 
others, there was a mean, dirty, and uncomfortable car set 
apart for colored travelers, called the " Jim Crow " car. 
Regarding this as the fruit of slaveholding prejudice, and 
being determined to fight the spirit of slavery wherever I 
might find it, I resolved to avoid this car, though it sometimes 
required some courage to do so. The colored people generally 
accepted the situation, and complained of me as making mat- 
ters worse rather than better by refusing to submit to this 
proscription. I, however, persisted, and sometimes was 
soundly beaten by conductor and brakeman. On one occasion 
six of these " fellows of the baser sort," under the direction 
of the conductor, set out to eject me from my seat. As usual, 
I had purchased a first-class ticket, and paid the required sum 
for it, and on the requirement of the conductor to leave refused 
to do so, when he called on these men " to snake me out." 
They attempted to obey with an air which plainly told me 
they relished the job. They, however, found me much attached 
to my seat, and in removing me I tore away two or three of 
the surrounding ones, on which I held with a firm grasp, and 
did the car no service in some other respects. I was strong 
and muscular, and the seats were not then so firmly attached 
or of as solid make as now. The result was that Stephen A. 
Chase, superintendent of the road, ordered all passenger trains 
to pass through Lynn (where I then lived) without stopping. 
This was a great inconvenience to the people, large numbers 
of whom did business in Boston, and at other points of the 
road. Led on, however, by James N. Buffum, Jonathan 


Buffum, Christopher Robinson, William Bassett, and others, 
the people of Lynn stood bravely by me, and denounced the 
railroad management in emphatic terms. Mr. Chase made 
reply that a railroad corporation was neither a religious nor 
reformatory body ; that the road was run for the accommoda- 
tion of the public, and that it required the exclusion of colored 
people from its cars. With an air of triumph he told us that 
we ought not to expect a railroad company to be better than 
the evangelical church, and that until the churches abolished 
the " negro pew," we ought not to expect the railroad com- 
pany to abolish the negro car. This argument was certainly 
good enough as against the church, but good for nothing as 
against the demands of justice and equality. My old and dear 
friend, J. N. Buffum, made a point against the company that 
they " often allowed dogs and monkeys to ride in first-class 
cars, and yet excluded a man like Frederick Douglass ! " In 
a very few years this barbarous practice was put away, and I 
think there have been no instances of such exclusion during 
the past thirty years ; and colored people now, everywhere 
in New England, ride upon equal terms with other passengers. 



Anti -slavery conventions held in parts of New England, and in some of the 
Middle and Western States — Mobs — Incidents, etc. 

THE year 1843 was one of remarkable anti-slavery activ- 
ity. The New England Anti-Slavery Society at its 
annual meeting, held in the spring of that year, resolved, 
under the auspices of Mr. Garrison and his friends, to hold a 
series of one hundred conventions. The territory embraced 
in this plan for creating anti-slavery sentiment included New 
Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsyl- 
vania. I had the honor to be chosen one of the agents to 
assist in these proposed conventions, and I never entered upon 
any work witli more heart and hope. All that the American 
people needed, I thought, was light. Could they know slavery 
as I knew it, they would hasten to the work of its extinction. 
The corps of speakers who were to be associated with me in 
carrying on these conventions were Messrs. George Bradburn, 
John A. Collins, James Monroe, William A. White, Charles 
L. Remond, and Sydney Howard Gay. They were all masters 
of the subject, and some of them able and eloquent orators. 
It was a piece of great good fortune to me, only a few years 
from slavery as I was, to be brought into contact with such 
men. It was a real campaign, and required nearly six months 
for its accomplishment. 

Those who only know the State of Vermont as it is to-day, 
can hardly understand, and must wonder that there was need 
for anti-slavery effort within its borders forty years ago. Our 
first convention was held in Middlebury, its chief seat of 
learning, and the home of William Slade, who was for years 
the co-worker with John Quincy Adams in Congress ; and yet 



in this town the opposition to our anti-slavery convention was 
intensely bitter and violent. The only man of note in the 
town whom I now remember as giving us sympathy or wel- 
come was Mr. Edward Barber, who was a man of courage as 
well as ability, and did his best to make our convention a suc- 
cess. In advance of our arrival, the college students had very 
industriously and mischievously placarded the town with vio- 
lent aspersions of our characters, and the grossest misrepre- 
sentations of our principles, measures, and objects. I was 
described as an escaped convict from the State Prison, and 
the other speakers were assailed not less slanderously. Few 
people attended our meeting, and apparently little was accom- 
plished by it. In the neighboring town of Ferrisburgh the 
case was different and more favorable. The way had been 
prepared for us by such stalwart anti-slavery workers as Orson 
S. Murray, Charles C. Burleigh, Rowland T. Robinson, and 
others. Upon the whole, however, the several towns visited 
showed that Vermont was surprisingly under the influence of 
the slave power. Her proud boast that no slave had ever 
been delivered up to his master within her borders did not 
hinder her hatred to anti-sl&very. What was true of the Green 
Mountain State in this respect, was most discouragingly true 
of New York, the State next visited. All along the Erie 
canal, from Albany to Buffalo, there was apathy, indifference, 
aversion, and sometimes mobocratic spirit evinced. Even 
Syracuse, afterwards the home of the humane Samuel J. May, 
and the scene of the " Jerry rescue," where Gerrit Smith, 
Beriah Greene, William Goodell, Alvin Stewart, and other 
able men since taught their noblest lessons, would not at that 
time furnish us with church, market, house, or hall in which 
to hold our meetings. Discovering this state of things, some 
of our number were disposed to turn our backs upon the town, 
and shake its dust from our feet, but of these, I am glad to 
say, I was not one. I had somewhere read of a command to 
go into the hedges and highways and compel men to come in. 
Mr. Stephen Smith, under whose hospitable roof we were made 


at home, thought as I did. It would be easy to silence anti- 
slavery agitation if refusing its agents the use of halls and 
churches could effect that result. The house of our friend 
Smith stood on the southwest corner of the park, which was 
well covered with young trees, too small to furnish shade or 
shelter, but better than none. Taking my stand under a small 
tree, in the southeast corner of this park, I began to speak in 
the morning to an audience of five persons, and before the 
close of my afternoon meeting I had before me not less than 
five hundred. In the evening I was waited upon by officers 
of the Congregational church, and tendered the use of an old 
wooden building, which they had deserted for a better, but 
still owned ; and here our convention was continued during 
three days. I believe there has been no trouble to find places 
in Syracuse in which to hold anti-slavery meetings since. I 
never go there without endeavoring to see that tree, which, 
like the cause it sheltered, has grown large and strong and 

I believe my first offence against our Anti-Slavery Israel 
was committed during these Syracuse meetings. It was on 
this wise : Our general agent, John A. Collins, had recently 
returned from England full of communistic ideas, which ideas 
would do away with individual property, and have all things 
in common. He had arranged a corps of speakers of his com- 
munistic persuasion, consisting of John 0. Wattles, Nathaniel 
Whiting, and John Orvis, to follow our anti-slavery conven- 
tions, and while our meeting was in progress in Syracuse, a 
meeting, as the reader will observe, obtained under much diffi- 
culty, Mr. Collins came in with his new friends and doctrines, 
and proposed to adjourn our anti-slavery discussions and take 
up the subject of communism. To this I ventured to object. 
I held that it was imposing an additional burden of unpopu- 
larity on our cause, and an act of bad faith with the people, 
who paid the salary of Mr. Collins, and were responsible for 
these hundred conventions. Strange to say, my course in this 
matter did not meet the approval of Mrs. M. W. Chapman, an 


influential member of the board of managers of the Massachu- 
setts Anti-Slavery Society, and called out a sharp reprimand 
from her, for my insubordination to my superiors. This was a 
strange and distressing revelation to me, and one of which I was 
not soon relieved. I thought I had only done my duty, and I 
think so still. The chief reason for the reprimand was the use 
which the liberty party papers would make of my seeming re- 
bellion against the commanders of our Anti-Slavery Army. 

In the growing city of Rochester we had in every way a 
better reception. Abolitionists of all shades of opinion were 
broad enough to give the Garrisonians (for such we were) a 
hearing. Samuel D. Porter and the Avery family, though 
they belonged to the Gerrit Smith, Myron Holly, and William 
Goodell school, were not so narrow as to refuse us the use of 
their church for the convention. They heard our moral 
suasion arguments, and in a manly way met us in debate. 
We were opposed to carrying the anti-slavery cause to the 
ballot-box, and they believed in carrying it there. They 
looked at slavery as a creature of law ; we regarded it as a 
creature of public opinion. It is surprising how small the 
difference appears as I look back to it, over the space of forty 
years ; yet at the time of it this difference was immense. 

During our stay at Rochester we were hospitably entertained 
by Isaac and Amy Post, two people of all-abounding benevo- 
lence, the truest and best of Long Island and Elias Hicks 
Quakers. They were not more amiable than brave, for they, 
never seemed to ask, What will the world say ? but walked 
straight forward in what seemed to them the line of duty, 
please or offend whomsoever it might. Many a poor fugitive 
slave found shelter under their roof when such shelter was 
hard to find elsewhere, and I mention them here in the warmth 
and fullness of earnest gratitude'. 

Pleased with our success in Rochester, we — that is Mr. 
Bradburn and myself — made our way to Buffalo, then a rising 
city of steamboats, bustle, and business. Buffalo was too busy 
to attend to such matters as we had in hand. Our friend, Mr. 


Marsh, had been able to secure for our convention only an old 
delapidated and deserted room, formerly used as a post-office. 
We went at the time appointed, and found seated a few cab- 
men in their coarse, every -day clothes, whips in hand, while 
their teams were standing on the street waiting for a job. 
Friend Bradburn looked around upon this unpromising audi- 
ence, and turned upon his heel, saying he would not speak to 
" such a set of ragamuffins," and took the first steamer to 
Cleveland, the home of his brother Charles, and left me to 
" do " Buffalo alone. For nearly a week I spoke every day in 
this old post-office to audiences constantly increasing in num- 
bers and respectability, till the Baptist church was thrown 
open to me ; and when this became too small I went on 
Sunday into the open Park and addressed an assembly of four 
or five thousand persons. After this my colored friends, 
Charles L. Remond, Henry Highland Garnett, Theodore S. 
Wright, Amos G. Beaman, Charles M. Ray, and other well- 
known colored men, held a convention here, and then Remond 
and myself* left for our next meeting in Clinton county, Ohio. 
This was held under a great shed, built by the abolitionists, of 
whom Dr. Abram Brook and Valentine Nicholson were the 
most noted, for this special purpose. Thousands gathered 
here and were addressed by Bradburn, White, Monroe, Remond, 
Gay, and myself. The influence of this meeting was deep and 
wide-spread. It would be tedious to tell of all, or a small part 
of all that was interesting and illustrative of the difficulties 
encountered by the early advocates of anti-slavery in con- 
nection with this campaign, and hence I leave this part of it 
at once. 

From Ohio we divided our forces and went into Indiana. 
At our first meeting we were mobbed, and some of us got our 
good clothes spoiled by evil-smelling eggs. This was at Rich- 
mond, where Henry Clay had been recently invited to the 
high seat of the Quaker meeting-house just after his gross 
abuse of Mr. Mendenhall, because of his presenting him a 
respectful petition, asking him to emancipate his slaves. At 


Pendleton this mobocratic spirit was even more pronounced. 
It was found impossible to obtain a building in which to hold 
our convention, and our friends, Dr. Fussell and others, erected 
a platform in the woods, where quite a large audience assem- 
bled. Mr. Bradburn, Mr. White, and myself were in attend- 
ance. As soon as we began to speak a mob of about sixty of 
the roughest characters I ever looked upon ordered us, through 
its leaders, to " be silent," threatening us, if we were not, 
with violence. We attempted to dissuade them, but they had 
not come to parley but to fight, and were well armed. They 
lore down the platform on which we stood, assaulted Mr. 
White and knocking out several of his teeth, dealt a heavy 
blow on William A. White, striking him on the back part of 
the head, badly cutting his scalp and felling him to the 
ground. Undertaking to fight my way through the crowd 
with a stick which I caught up in the niele'e, I attracted the 
fury of the mob, which laid me prostrate on the ground under 
a torrent of blows. Leaving me thus, with my right hand 
broken, and in a state of unconsciousness, the mobocrats hastily 
mounted their horses and rode to Andersonville, where most 
of them resided. I was soon raised up and revived by Neal 
Hardy, a kind-hearted member of the Society of Friends, and 
carried by him in his wagon about three miles in the country 
to his home, where I was tenderly nursed and bandaged by 
good Mrs. Hardy till I was again on my feet, but as the bones 
broken were not properly set my hand has never recovered 
its natural strength and dexterity. We lingered long in 
Indiana, and the good effects of our labors there are felt at this 
day. I have lately visited Pendleton, now one of the best 
republican towns in the State, and looked again upon the spot 
where I was beaten down, and have again taken by the hand 
some of the witnesses of that scene, amongst whom was the 
kind, good lady — Mrs. Hardy — who, so like the good Samaritan 
of old, bound up my wounds, and cared for me so kindly. A 
complete history of these hundred conventions would fill a 
volume far larger than the one in which this simple reference 

Fighting the Mob in Indiana. 


is to find a place. It would be a grateful duty to speak of the 
noble young men, who forsook ease and pleasure, as did White, 
Gay, and Monroe, and endured all manner of privations in the 
cause of the enslaved and down-trodden of my race. Gay, 
Monroe, and myself are the only ones who participated as agents 
in the one hundred conventions who now survive. Mr. Monroe 
was for many years consul to Brazil, and has since been a faith- 
ful member of Congress from the Oberlin District, Ohio, and has 
filled other important positions in his State. Mr. Gay was 
managing editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard, and 
afterwards of the New York Tribune, and still later of the 
New York Evening Post, 



Danger to be averted — A refuge sought abroad — Voyage on the steamship 
Cambria — Refusal of first-class passage — Attractions of the forecastle- 
deck — Hutchinson family — Invited to make a speech — Southerners feel 
insulted — Captain threatens to put them in irons — Experiences abroad — 
Attentions received — Impressions of different members of Parliament, 
and of other public men — Contrast with life in America — Kindness of 
friends — Their purchase of my person, and the gift of the same to myself 
— My return. 

AS I have before intimated, the publishing of my " Narra- 
tive " was regarded by my friends with mingled feel- 
ings of satisfaction and apprehension. They were glad to 
have the doubts and insinuations which the advocates and 
apologists of slavery had made against me. proved to the world 
to be false, but they had many fears lest this very proof would 
endanger my safety, and make it necessary for me to leave a 
position which in a signal manner had opened before me, and 
one in which I had thus far been efficient in assisting to arouse 
the moral sentiment of the community against a system which 
had deprived me, in common with my fellow-slaves, of all the 
attributes of manhood. 

I became myself painfully alive- to the liability which sur- 
rounded me, and which might at any moment scatter all my 
proud hopes, and return me to a doom worse than death. It 
was thus I was led to seek a refuge in monarchial England, 
from the dangers of republican slavery. A rude, uncultivated 
fugitive slave, I was driven to that country to which Ameri- 
can young gentlemen go to increase their stock of knowledge 
— to seek pleasure, and to have their rough democratic man- 
ners softened by contact with English aristocratic refinement. 

My friend, James N. Buffum of Lynn, Mass., who was to 



accompany me, applied on board the steamer Cambria, of the 
Cunard line, for tickets, and was told that I could not be 
received as a cabin passenger. American prejudice against 
color had triumphed over British liberality and civilization, 
and had erected a color test aa condition for crossing the sea 
in the cabin of a British vessel. 

The insult was keenly felt by my white friends, but to me 
such insults were so frequent, and expected, that it was of no 
great consequence whether I went in the cabin or in the steer- 
age. Moreover, I felt that if I could not go in the first cabin, 
first cabin passengers could come in the second cabin, and in 
this thought I was not mistaken, as I soon found myself an 
object of more general interest than I wished to be, and, so 
far from being degraded by being placed in the second cabin, 
that part of the ship became the scene of as much pleasure 
and refinement as the cabin itself. The Hutchinson family 
from New Hampshire — sweet singers of anti-slavery and the 
" good time coming" — were fellow-passengers, and often came 
to my rude forecastle-deck and sang their sweetest songs, 
making the place eloquent with music and alive with spirited 
conversation. They not only visited me, but invited me to 
visit them ; and in two days after leaving Boston one part of 
the ship was about as free to me as another. My visits there, 
however, were but seldom. I preferred to live within my privi- 
leges, and keep upon my own premises. This course was quite 
as much in accord with good policy as witli my own feelings. 
The effect was that with the majority of the passengers all 
color distinctions were flung to the winds, and I found myself 
treated with every mark of respect from the beginning to the 
end of the voyage, except in one single instance ; and in that 
I came near being mobbed for complying with an invitation 
given me by the passengers and the captain of the Cambria 
to deliver a lecture on slavery. There were several young 
men — passengers from Georgia and New Orleans ; and they 
were pleased to regard my lecture as an insult offered to them, 
and swore I should not speak. They went so far as to threaten 


to throw me overboard, and but for the firmness of Captain 
Judkins, they would probably, under the inspiration of slavery 
and brandy, have attempted to put their threats into execu- 
tion. I have no space to describe this scene, although its 
tragic and comic features are well worth description. An end 
was put to the melee by the captain's call to the ship's com- 
pany to put the salt-water mobocrats in irons, at which deter 
mined order the gentlemen of the lash scampered, and for 
the remainder of the voyage conducted themselves very 

This incident of the voyage brought me, within two days 
after landing at Liverpool, before the British public. The gen- 
tleman so promptly withheld in their attempted violence toward 
me flew to the press to justify their conduct, and to denounce 
me as a worthless and insolent negro. This course was even 
less wise than the conduct it was intended to sustain ; for, 
besides awakening something like a national interest in me, 
and securing me an audience, it brought out counter state- 
ments, and threw the blame upon themselves which they had 
sought to fasten upon me and the gallant captain of the ship. 

My visit to England did much for me every way. Not the 
least among the many advantages derived from it was in the 
opportunity it afforded me of becoming acquainted with edu- 
cated people, and of seeing and hearing many of the most 
distinguished men of that country. My friend, Mr. Wendell 
Phillips, knowing something of my appreciation of orators 
and oratory, had said to me before leaving Boston : " Although 
Americans are generally better speakers than Englishmen, you 
will find in England individual orators superior to the best of 
ours." I do not know that Mr. Phillips was quite just to 
himself in this remark, for I found in England few, if any, 
superior to him in the gift of speech. When I went to 
England that country was in the midst of a tremendous agita- 
tion. The people were divided by two great questions of 
" Repeal ;" — the repeal of the corn laws, and the repeal of the 
union between England and Ireland. 


Debate ran high in Parliament, and among the people every- 
where, especially concerning the corn laws. Two powerful 
interests of the country confronted each other : one venerable 
from age, and the other young, stalwart, and growing. Both 
strove for ascendancy. Conservatism united for retaining the 
corn laws, while the rising power of commerce and manufactures 
demanded repeal. It was interest against interest, but some- 
thing more and deeper : for, while there was aggrandizement 
of the landed aristocracy on the one side, there was famine 
and pestilence on the other. Of the anti-corn law movement, 
Richard Cobden and John Bright, both then members of Par- 
liament, were the leaders. They were the rising statesmen of 
England, and possessed a very friendly disposition toward 
America. Mr. Bright, who is now Right Honorable John 
Bright, and occupies a high place in the British Cabinet, was 
friendly to the loyal and progressive spirit which abolished 
our slavery and saved our country from dismemberment. I 
have seen and heard both of these great men, and, if I may 
be allowed so much egotism, I may say I was acquainted with 
both of them. I was, besides, a welcome guest at the house 
of Mr. Bright, in Rochdale, and treated as a friend and brother 
among his brothers and sisters. Messrs. Cobden and Bright 
were well-matched leaders. One was in large measure the 
complement of the other. They were spoken of usually as 
Cobden and Bright, but there was no reason, except that Cob- 
den was the elder of the two, why their names might not have 
been reversed. 

They were about equally fitted for their respective parts in 
the great movement of which they were the distinguished 
leaders, and neither was likely to encroach upon the work of 
the other. The contrast was quite marked in their persons as 
well as in their oratory. The powerful speeches of the one, 
as they traveled together over the country, heightened the 
effect of the speeches of the other, so that their difference 
was about as effective for good as was their agreement. Mr. 
Cobden — for an Englishman — was lean, tall, and slightly sal- 


low, and might have been taken for an American or French- 
mnn. Mr. Bright was, in the broadest sense, an Englishman, 
abounding in all the physical perfections peculiar to his coun- 
trymen — full, round, and ruddy. Cobden had dark eyes and 
hair, a well-formed head, high above his shoulders, and, when 
sitting quiet, had a look of sadness and fatigue. In the House 
of Commons, he often sat with one hand supporting his head. 
Bright appeared the very opposite in this and other respects. 
His eyes were blue, his hair light, his head massive, and firmly 
set upon his shoulders, suggesting immense energy and deter- 
mination. In his oratory Mr. Cobden was cool, candid, delib- 
erate, straight-forward, yet at times slightly hesitating. 
Bright, on the other hand, was fervid, fluent, rapid ; always 
ready in thought or word. Mr. Cobden was full of facts and 
figures, dealing in statistics by the hour. Mr. Bright was full 
of wit, knowledge, and pathos, and possessed amazing power 
of expression. One spoke to the cold, calculating side of the 
British nation, which asks "if the new idea will pay?" The 
other spoke to the infinite side of human nature — the side which 
asks, first of all, "is it right? is it just? is it humane?" 
Wherever these two great men appeared, the people assembled 
in thousands. They could, at an hour's notice, pack the town 
hall of Birmingham, which would hold seven thousand per- 
sons, or the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, and Covent Gar- 
den theater, London, each of which was capable of holding 
eight thousand. 

One of the first attentions shown me by these gentlemen 
was to make me welcome at the Free Trade club in London. 

I was not long in England before a crisis was reached in 
the anti-corn law movement. The announcement that Sir 
Robert Peel, then prime minister of England, had become a 
convert to the views of Messrs. Cobden and Bright, came upon 
the country with startling effect, and formed the turning- 
point in the anti-corn law question. Sir Robert had been the 
strong defense of the landed aristocracy of England, and his 
defection left them without a competent leader, and just here 


came the opportunity for Mr. Benjamin Disraeli, the Hebrew 
— since Lord Beaconsfield. To him it was in . public affairs, 
the " tide which led on to fortune." With a bitterness unsur- 
passed, he had been denounced by reason of his being a Jew, 
as a lineal descendant of the thief on the cross. But now his 
time had come, and he was not the man to permit it to pass 
unimproved. For the first time, it seems, he conceived the 
idea of placing himself at the head of a great party, and thus 
become the chief defender of the landed aristocracy. The way 
was plain. He was to transcend all others in effective denun- 
ciation of Sir Robert Peel, and surpass all others in zeal. His 
ability was equal to the situation, and the world knows the 
result of his ambition. I watched him narrowly when I saw 
him in the House of Commons, but I saw and heard nothing- 
there that foreshadowed the immense space he at last came 
to fill in the mind of his country and the world. He had 
nothing of the grace and warmth of Peel in debate, and his 
speeches were better in print than when listened to, — yet when 
he spoke, all eyes were fixed, and all ears attent. Despite all 
his ability and power, however, as the defender of the landed 
interests of England, his cause was already lost. The increas- 
ing power of the anti-corn law league — the burden of the tax 
upon bread, the cry of distress coming from famine-stricken 
Ireland, and the adhesion of Peel to the views of Cobden and 
Bright made the repeal of the corn laws speedy and certain. 
The repeal of the union between England and Ireland was 
not so fortunate. It is still, under one name or another, the 
cherished hope and inspiration of her sons. It stands little 
better or stronger than it did six and thirty years ago, when 
its greatest advocate, Daniel O'Connell, welcomed me to Ire- 
land, and to " Conciliation Hall," and where I first had a speci- 
men of his truly wondrous eloquence. Until I heard this 
man, I had thought that the story of his oratory and power 
were greatly exaggerated. I did not see how a man could 
speak to twenty or thirty thousand people at one time, and be 
heard by any considerable number of them ; but the mystery 

272 O. A. BBOWNSON. 

was solved when I saw his vast person, and heard his musical 
voice. His eloquence came down upon the vast assembly like 
a summer thunder-shower upon a dusty road. He could stir 
the multitude at will, to a tempest of wrath, or reduce it to 
the silence with which a mother leaves the cradle-side of her 
sleeping babe. Such tenderness — such pathos — such world- 
embracing love ! and, on the other hand, such indignation — 
such fiery and thunderous denunciation, and such wit and 
humor, I never heard surpassed, if equaled, at home or abroad. 
He held Ireland within the grasp of his strong hand, and 
could lead it withersoever he would, for Ireland believed in 
him and loved him, as she has loved and believed in no leader 
since. In Dublin, when he had been absent from that city a 
few weeks, I saw him followed through Sackwell street by a 
multitude of little boys and girls, shouting in loving accents : 
" There goes Dan ! there goes Dan ! " while he looked at the 
ragged and shoeless crowd with the kindly air of a loving 
parent returning to his gleeful children. He was called " The 
Liberator," and not without cause ; for, though he failed to 
effect the repeal of the union between England and Ireland, 
he fought out the battle of Catholic emancipation, and was 
clearly the friend of liberty the world over. In introducing 
me to an immense audience in Conciliation Hall, he playfully 
called me the " Black O'Connell of the United States ; " nor 
did he let the occasion pass without his usual word of denun- 
ciation of our slave system. 0. A. Brownson had then recently 
become a Catholic, and taking advantage of his new Catholic 
audience, in " Brownson's Review" had charged O'Connell with 
attacking American institutions. In reply, Mr. O'Connell 
said : " I am charged with attacking American institutions, as 
slavery is called ; I am not ashamed of this attack. My sym- 
pathy is not confined to the narrow limits of my own green 
Ireland; my spirit walks abroad upon sea and land, and 
wherever there is oppression, I hate the oppressor, and 
wherever the tyrant rears his head, I will deal my bolts upon 
it ; and wherever there is sorrow and suffering, there is my 


spirit to succor and relieve." No trans-atlantic statesman 
bore a testimony more marked and telling against the crime 
and curse of slavery than did Daniel O'Connell. He would 
shake the hand of no slaveholder, nor allow himself to be 
introduced to one, if he knew him to be such. When the 
friends of repeal in the Southern States sent him money with 
which to carry on his work, he, with ineffable scorn, refused 
the bribe, and sent back what he considered the blood-stained 
offering, saying he would " never purchase the freedom of 
Ireland with the price of slaves." 

It was not long after my seeing Mr. O'Connell that his 
health broke down, and his career ended in death. I felt that 
a great champion of freedom had fallen, and that the cause 
of the American slave, not less than the cause of his country, 
had met with a great loss. All the more was this felt when I 
saw the kind of men who came to the front when the voice of 
O'Connell was no longer heard in Ireland. He was succeeded 
by the Duffys, Mitchells, Meagher, and others, — men who 
loved liberty for themselves and their country, but were 
utterly destitute of sympathy with the cause of liberty in 
countries other than their own. One of the first utterances 
of John Mitchell on reaching this country, from his exile and 
bondage, was a wish for a " slave plantation, well stocked with 

Besides hearing Cobden, Bright, Peel, Disraeli, O'Connell, 
Lord John Russell, and other Parliamentary debaters, it was 
my good fortune to hear Lord Brougham when nearly at his 
best. He was then a little over sixty, and that for a British 
statesman is not considered old ; and in his case there were 
thirty years of life still before him. He struck me as the 
most wonderful speaker of them all. How he was ever 
reported I cannot imagine. Listening to him was like stand- 
ing near the track of a railway train, drawn by a locomotive 
at the rate of forty miles an hour. You were riveted* to the 
spot, charmed with the sublime spectacle of speed and power, 
but could give no description of the carriages, nor of the pas- 


sengers at the windows. There was so much to see and hear, 
and so little time left the beholder and hearer to note particu- 
lars, that when this strange man sat down you felt like one 
who had hastily passed through the wildering wonders of a 
world's exhibition. On the occasion of my listening to him, 
his speech was on the postal relations of England with the 
outside world, and he seemed to have a perfect knowledge of 
the postal arrangements of every nation in Europe, and, indeed, 
in the whole universe. He possessed the great advantage so 
valuable to a Parliamentary debater, of being able to make 
all interruptions serve the purposes of his thought and speech, 
and carry on a dialogue with several persons without inter- 
rupting the rapid current of his reasoning. I had more curi- 
osity to see and hear this man than any other in England, 
and he more than fulfilled my expectations. 

While in England, I saw few literary celebrities, except 
William and Mary Howitt, and Sir John Bowering. I was 
invited to breakfast by the latter in company with Wm. Lloyd 
Garrison, and spent a delightful morning with him, chiefly as 
a listener to their conversation. Sir John was a poet, a states- 
man, and a diplomat, and had represented England as minis- 
ter to China. He was full of interesting information, and had 
a charming way of imparting his knowledge. The conversa- 
tion was about slavery, and about China, and as my knowl- 
edge was very slender about the " Flowery Kingdom," and its 
people, I was greatly interested in Sir John's description of 
the ideas and manners prevailing among them. According 
to him, the doctrine of substitution was carried so far in that 
country that men sometimes procured others to suffer even 
the penalty of death in their stead. Justice seemed not in- 
tent upon the punishment of the actual criminal, if only some- 
body was punished when the law was violated. 

William and Mary Howitt were among the kindliest people 
I ever met. Their interest in America, and their well-known 
testimonies against slavery, made me feel much at home with 
them at their house in that part of London known as Clap- 


ham. Whilst stopping here, I met the Swedish poet and 
author — Hans Christian Anderson. He, like myself, was a 
guest, spending a few days. I saw but little of him, though 
under the same roof. He was singular in his appearance, and 
equally singular in his silence. His mind seemed to me all 
the while turned inwardly. He walked about the beautiful 
garden as one might in a dream. The Howitts had translated 
his works into English, and could of course address him in 
his own language. Possibly his bad English and my destitu- 
tion of Swedish, may account for the fact of our mutual 
silence, and yet I observed he was much the same towards 
every one. Mr. and Mrs. Howitt were indefatigable writers. 
Two more industrious and kind-hearted people did not breathe. 
With all their literary work, they always had time to devote 
to strangers, and to all benevolent efforts, to ameliorate the 
condition of the poor and needy. Quakers though they were, 
they took deep interest in the Hutchinsons — Judson, John, 
Asa, and Abby, who were much at their house during my stay 
there. Mrs. Howitt not inaptly styled them a " Band of 
young apostles." They sang for the oppressed and the poor 
— for liberty and humanity. 

Whilst in Edinburgh, so famous for its beauty, its educa- 
tional institutions, its literary men, and its history, I had a 
very intense desire gratified — and that was to see and con- 
verse with George Combe, the eminent mental philosopher, 
and author of " Combe's Constitution of Man," a book which 
had been placed in my hands a few years before, by Doctor 
Peleg Clark of Rhode Island, the reading of which had 
relieved my path of many shadows. In company with George 
Thompson, James N. Buffum, and William L. Garrison, I had 
the honor to be invited by Mr. Combe to breakfast, and the 
occasion was one of the most delightful I met in dear old 
Scotland. Of course in the presence of such men, my part 
was a very subordinate one. I was a listener. Mr. Combe 
did the most of the talking, and did it so well that nobody 
felt like interposing a word, except so far as to draw him on. 


He discussed the corn laws, and the proposal to reduce the 
hours of labor. He looked at all political and social ques- 
tions through his peculiar mental science. His manner was 
remarkably quiet, and he spoke as not expecting opposition to 
his views. Phrenology explained everything to him, from the 
finite to the infinite. I look back to the morning spent with 
this singularly clear-headed man with much satisfaction. 

It would detain the reader too long, and make this volume 
too large, to tell of the many kindnesses shown me while 
abroad, or even to mention all the great and noteworthy per- 
sons who gave me a friendly hand and a cordial welcome ; but 
there is one other, now long gone to his rest, of whom a few 
words must be spoken, and that one was Thomas Clarkson — 
the last of the noble line of Englishmen who inaugurated the 
anti-slavery movement for England and the civilized world — the 
life-long friend and co-worker with Granville Sharpe, William 
Wilberforce, Thomas Fowell Buxton, and other leaders in that 
great reform which has nearly put an end to slavery in all 
parts of the globe. As in the case of George Combe, I went 
to see Mr. Clarkson in company with Messrs. Garrison and 
Thompson. They had by note advised him of our coming, 
and had received one in reply, bidding us welcome. We found 
the venerable object of our visit seated at a table, where he 
had been busily writing a letter to America against slavery ; 
for, though in his eighty-seventh year, he continued to write. 
When we were presented to him, he rose to receive us. The 
scene was impressive. It was the meeting of two centuries. 
Garrison, Thompson, and myself were young men. After 
shaking hands with my two distinguished friends, and giving 
them welcome, he took one of my hands in both of his, and, 
in a tremulous voice, said, " God bless you, Frederick Douglass ! 
I have given sixty years of my life to the emancipation of 
your people, and if I had sixty years more they should all be 
given to the same cause." Our stay was short with this great- 
hearted old man. He was feeble, and our presence greatly 
excited him, and we left the house with something of the feel- 

author's reflections. 277 

ing with which a man takes final leave of a beloved friend at 
the edge of the grave. 

Some notion maybe formed of the difference in my feelings 
and circumstances while abroad, from an extract from one 
of a series of letters addressed by me to Mr. Garrison, and 
published in the Liberator, It was written on the 1st day of 
January, 1846. 

"My Dear Friend Garrison: 

"Up to this time, I have given no direct expression of the views, feelings, 
and opinions which I have formed respecting the character and condition of 
the people of this land. I have refrained thus purposely. I wish to speak 
advisedly, and, in order to do this, I have waited till, I trust, experience has 
brought my opinion to an intelligent maturity. I have been thus careful, 
not because I think what I say will have much effect in shaping the opinions 
of the world, but because what influence I may possess, whether little or 
much, I wish to go in the right direction, and according to truth. I hardly 
need say that in speaking of Ireland, I shall be influenced by no prejudices 
in favor of America. I think my circumstances all forbid that. I have no 
end to serve, no creed to uphold, no government to defend; and as to nation, 
I belong to none. I have no protection at home, or resting-place abroad. 
The land of my birth welcomes me to her shores only as a slave, and spurns 
with contempt the idea of treating me differently ; so that I am an outcast 
from the society of my childhood, and an outlaw in the land of my birth. 
' I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.' That 
men should be patriotic, is to me perfectly natural; and as a philosophical 
fact, I am able to give it an intellectual recognition. But no further can I 
go. If ever I had any patriotism, or any capacity for the feeling, it was 
whipped out of me long since by the lash of the American soul-drivers. In 
thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky, 
her grand old woods, her fertile fields, her beautiful rivers, her mighty lakes, 
and star-crowned mountains. But my rapture is soon checked — my joy is 
soon turned to mourning. When I remember that all is cursed with the 
infernal spirit of slaveholding, robbery, and wrong; when I remember that 
with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to 
the ocean, disregarded and forgotten, and that her most fertile fields drink 
daily of the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unuttera- 
ble loathing, and led to reproach myself that anything could fall from my 
lips in praise of such a land. America will not allow her children to love 
her. She seems bent on compelling those who would be her warmest friends, 
to be her worst enemies. May God give her repentance before it is too late, 
if the ardent prayer of my heart. I will continue to pray, labor, and wait, 
believing that she cannot always be insensible to the dictates of justice, or 
deaf to the voice of humanity. My opportunities for learning the charao 


ter and condition of the people of this land have been very great I have 
traveled from the Hill of Howth to the Giant's Causeway, and from the 
Giant's Causeway to Cape Clear. During these travels I have met with 
much in the character and condition of the people to approve, and much 
to condemn ; much that has thrilled me with pleasure, and much that has 
filled me with pain. I will not, in this letter, attempt to give any descrip- 
tion of those scenes which give me pain. This I will do hereafter. I have 
enough, and more than your subscribers will be disposed to read at one time, 
of the bright side of the picture. I can truly sa\ .ave spent some of the 
happiest days of my life since landing in this country. I seem to have 
undergone a transformation. I live a new life. The warm and generous 
cooperation extended to me by the friends of my despised race; the prompt 
and liberal manner with which the press has rendered me its aid ; the glori- 
ous enthusiasm with which thousands have nocked to hear the cruel wrongs 
of my down-trodden and long-enslaved fellow-countrymen portrayed; the 
deep sympathy for the slave, and the strong abhorrence of the slaveholder 
everywhere evinced ; the cordiality with which members and ministers of 
various religious bodies, and of various shades of religous opinion have 
embraced me and lent me their aid; the kind hospitality constantly prof- 
fered me by persons of the highest rank in society ; the spirit of freedom 
that seems to animate all with whom I come in contact, and the entire 
absence of even-thing that looks like prejudice against me, on account of the 
color of my skin, contrasts so strongly with my long and bitter experience 
in the United States, that I look with wonder and amazement on the transi- 
tion. In the southern part of the United States, I was a slave — thought of 
and spoken of as property; in the language of law, 'held, taken, reputed, 
and adjudged to be a chattel in the hands of my owners and possessors, and 
their executors, administrators, and assigns, to all intents, constructions, and 
purposes, whatsoever.' (Brev. Digest., 224.) In the Northern States, a 
fugitive slave, liable to be hunted at any moment like a felon, and to be 
hurled into the terrible jaws of slavery — doomed by an inveterate prejudice 
against color, to insult and outrage on every hand (Massachusetts out of the 
question) — denied the privileges and courtesies common to others in the 
use of the most humble means of conveyance — shut out from the cabins on 
steamboats, refused admission to respectable hotels, caricatured, scorned, 
scoffed, mocked, and maltreated with impunity by any one (no matter how 
black his heart), so he has a white skin. But now behold the change ! 
Eleven days and a half gone, and I have crossed three thousand miles of 
perilous deep. Instead of a democratic government, I am under a mon- 
archial government. Instead of the bright, blue sky of America, I am 
covered with the soft, gray fog of the Emerald Isle. I breathe, and lo ! the 
chattel becomes a man ! I gaze around in vain for one who will question 
my equal humanity, claim me as a slave, or offer me an insult. I employ 
a cab — I am seated beside white people — I reach the hotel — I enter the same 
door — I am shown into the same parlor — I dine at the same table — and no 


one is offended. No delicate nose grows deformed in my presence. I find 
no difficulty here in obtaining admission into any place of worship, instruc- 
tion, or amusement, on equal terms, with people as white as any I ever saw in 
the United States. I meet nothing to remind me of my complexion. I find 
myself regarded and treated at every turn with the kindness and deference 
paid to white people. When I go to church I am met by no upturned nose 
and scornful lip, to tell me — ' "We don't allow niggers in here.'" 

I remember about two years ago there was in Boston, near 
the southwest corner of Boston Common, a menagerie. I had 
long desired to see such a collection as I understood was be- 
ing exhibited there. Never having had an opportunity while 
a slave, I resolved to seize this, and as I approached the 
entrance to gain admission, I was told by the door-keeper, in 
a harsh and contemptuous tone, " We don't allow niggers in 
here." I also remember attending a revival meeting in the 
Eev. Henry Jackson's meeting-house, at New Bedford, and 
going up the broad aisle for a seat, I was met by a good dea- 
con, who told me, in a pious tone, " We don't allow niggers in 
here" Soon after my arrival in New Bedford, from the South, 
I had a strong desire to attend the lyceum, but was told, " They 
don't allow niggers there." While passing from New York to 
Boston on the steamer Massachusetts, on the night of the 9th 
of December, 1843, when chilled almost through with the cold, 
I went into the cabin to get a little warm. I was soon touched 
upon the shoulder, and told, " We don't allow niggers in here." 
A week or two before leaving the United States, I had a meet- 
ing appointed at Weymouth, the house of that glorious band 
of true abolitionists — the Weston family and others. On 
attempting to take a seat in the omnibus to that place, I was 
told by the driver (and I never shall forget his fiendish hate), 
" I don't allow niggers in here." Thank heaven for the respite 
I now enjoy ! I had been in Dublin but a few days when a 
gentleman of great respectability kindly offered to conduct 
me through all the public buildings of that beautiful city, and 
soon afterward I was invited by the lord mayor to dine with 
him. What a pity there was not some democratic Christian 
at the door of his splendid mansion to bark out at my ap- 


proach, " They don't allow niggers in here ! " The truth is, 
the people here know nothing of the republican negro-hate 
prevalent in our glorious land. They measure and esteem 
men according to their moral and intellectual worth, and not 
according to the color of their skin. Whatever may be said 
of the aristocracies here, there is none based on the color of 
a man's skin. This species of aristocracy belongs preemi- 
nently to " the land of the free, and the home of the brave." 
I have never found it abroad in any but Americans. It sticks 
to them wherever they go. They find it almost as hard to get 
rid of as to get rid of their skins. 

The second day after my arrival in Liverpool, in company 
with my friend Buffum, and several other friends, I went to 
Eaton Hall, the residence of the Marquis of Westminster, one 
of the most splendid buildings in England. On approaching 
the door, I found several of our American passengers who 
came out with us in the Cambria, waiting for admission, as 
but one party was allowed in the house at a time. We all had 
to wait till the com} any within came out, and of all the faces 
expressive of chagrin, those of the Americans were preemi- 
nent. They looked as sour as vinegar, and as bitter as gall, 
when they found I was to be admitted on equal terms with 
themselves. When the door was opened, I walked in on a 
footing with my white fellow-citizens, and, from all I could 
see, I had as much attention paid me by the servants who 
showed us through the house, as any with a paler skin. As I 
walked through the building, the statuary did not fall down, 
the pictures did not leap from their places, the doors did not 
refuse to open, and the servants did not say, " We donH allow 
niggers in here." 

My time and labors while abroad were divided between 
England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Upon this experi- 
ence alone I might fill a volume. Amongst the few incidents 
which space will permit me to mention, and one which 
attracted much attention and provoked much discussion in 
America, was a brief statement made by me in the World's 

i)R. S. H. COX. 281 

Temperance Convention, held in Covent Garden theater, Lon- 
don, August 7, 1846. The United States was largely repre- 
sented in this convention by eminent divines, mostly doctors 
of divinity. They had come to England for the double pur- 
pose of attending the World's Evangelical Alliance, and the 
World's Temperance Convention. In the former these minis- 
ters were endeavoring to procure endorsement for the Chris- 
tian character of slaveholders; and, naturally enough, they 
were adverse to the exposure of slaveholdiug practices. It 
was not pleasant to them to see one of the slaves running at 
large in England, and telling the other side of the story. 
The Rev. Samuel Hanson Cox, D.D., of Brooklyn, N. Y., was 
especially disturbed at my presence and speech in the Tem- 
perance Convention. I will give here, first, the reverend gen- 
tleman's version of the occasion in a letter from him as it 
appeared in the New York Evangelist, the organ of his 
denomination. After a description of the place (Covent Gar- 
den theater) and the speakers, he says : 

" They all advocated the same cause, showed a glorious unity of thought 
and feeling, and the effect was constantly raised— the moral scene was superb 
and glorious— when Frederick Douglass, the colored abolition agistor and 
ultraist, came to the platform, and so spake, d la mode, as to ruin the in- 
fluence almost of all that preceded! He lugged in anti-slavery, or abolition, 
no doubt prompted to it by some of the politic ones, who can use him to 
do what they would not themselves adventure to do in person. He is sup- 
posed to have been well paid for the abomination. 

"What a perversion, an abuse, an iniquity against the law of reciprocal 
righteousness, to call thousands together, and get them, some certain ones, 
to seem conspicuous and devoted for one sole and grand object, and then 
all at once, with obliquity, open an avalanche on them for some imputed 
evil or monstrosity, for which, whatever be the wound or injury inflicted, 
they were both too fatigued and hurried with surprise, and too straightened 
for time, to be properly prepared. I say it is a streak of meanness! It is 
abominable! On this occasion Mr. Douglass allowed himself to denounce 
America and all its temperance societies, together as a grinding community 
of the enemies of his people ; said evil, with no alloy of good, concerning 
the whole of us; was perfectly indiscriminate in his severities; talked of the 
American delegates, and to them, as if he had been our school-master, and 
we his docile and devoted pupils ; and launched his revengeful missiles at 
our country without one palliative, and as if not a Christian or a true anti- 


slavery man lived in the whole of the United States. The fact is, the man 
has been petted, and flattered, and used, and paid by certain abolitionists, 
not unknown to us, of the ne plus ultra stamp, till he forgets himself ; and, 
though he may gratify his own impulses, and those of old Adam in others, 
yet sure I am that all this is just the way to ruin his own influence, to defeat 
his own object, and to do mischief — not good — to the very cause he professes 
to love. With the single exception of one cold-hearted parricide, whose 
character I abhor, and whom I will not name, and who has, I fear, no feel- 
ing of true patriotism or piety within him, all the delegates from our coun- 
try were together wounded and indignant. No wonder at it. I write freely. 
It was not done in a corner. It was inspired, I believe, from beneath, and 
not from above. It was adapted to re-kindle on both sides of the Atlantic 
the flames of national exasperation and war. And this is the game which 
Mr. Frederick Douglass and his silly patrons are playing in England and in 
Scotland, and wherever they can find ' some mischief still for idle hands to 
do.' I came here his sympathizing friend; I am such no more, as I know 
him. My own opinion is increasingly that this spirit must be exorcised out 
of England and America before any substantial good can be effected for the 
cause of the slave. It is adapted only to make bad worse, and to inflame 
the passions of indignant millions to an incurable resentment. None but an 
ignoramus or a madman could think that this way was that of the inspired 
apostles of the Son of God. It may gratify the feelings of a self -deceived 
and malignant few, but it will do no good in any direction — least of all to 
the poor slave ! It is short-sighted, impulsive, partisan, reckless, and tend- 
ing only to sanguinary ends. None of this with men of sense and principle. 
"We all wanted to reply, but it was too late; the whole theater seemed 
taken with the spirit of the Ephesian uproar; they were furious and boister- 
ous in the extreme, and Mr. Kirk could hardl}' obtain a moment, though 
many were desirous in his behalf to say a few words, as he did, very calm 
and properly, that the cause of temperance was not at all responsible for 
slavery, and had no connection with it." 

Now, to show the reader what ground there was for tills 
tirade from the pen of this eminent divine, and how easily 
Americans parted with their candor and self-possession when 
slavery was mentioned adversely, I will give here the head and 
front of my offence. Let it be borne in mind that this was a 
world's convention of the friends of temperance. It was not 
an American or a white man's convention, but one composed 
of men of all nations and races ; and as such, the convention 
had the right to know all about the temperance cause in every 
part of the world, and especially to know what hindrances 
were interposed in any part of the world, to its progress. I 

author's address. 283 

was perfectly in order in speaking precisely as I did. I was 
neither an " intruder," nor " out of order." I had been in- 
vited and advertised to speak by the same committee that 
invited Doctors Beecher, Cox, Patton, Kirk, Marsh, and others, 
and my speech was perfectly within the limits of good order, 
as the following report will show : 

"Mr. Chairman — Ladies and Gentlemen: — 

"lam not a delegate to this convention. Those who would have been 
most likely to elect me as a delegate, could not, because they are to-night 
held in abject slavery in the United States. Sir, I regret that I cannot fully 
unite with the American delegates in their patriotic eulogies of America, and 
American temperance societies. I cannot do so for this good reason: there 
are at this moment three millions of the American population, by slavery 
and prejudice, placed entirely beyond the pale of American temperance 
societies. The three million slaves are completely excluded by slavery, and 
four hundred thousand free colored people are almost as completely 
excluded by an inveterate prejudice against them, on account of their color. 
[Cries of shame! shame!] 

"I do not say these things to wound the feelings of the American dele- 
gates. I simply mention them in their presence and before this audience, 
that, seeing how you regard this hatred and neglect of the colored people, they 
may be inclined on their return home to enlarge the field of their temper- 
ance operations, and embrace within the scope of their influence, my long- 
neglected race. [Great cheering, and some confusion on the platform.] 
Sir, to give you some idea of the difficulties and obstacles in the way of the 
temperance reformation of the colored population in the United States, allow 
me to state a few facts. 

" About the year 1840, a few intelligent, sober, and benevolent colored 
gentlemen in Philadelphia, being acquainted with the appalling ravages of 
intemperance among a numerous class of colored people in that city, and, 
finding themselves neglected and excluded from white societies, organized 
societies among themselves, appointed committees, sent out agents, built 
temperance halls, and were earnestly and successfully rescuing many from 
the fangs of intemperance. 

"The cause went nobly on till August 1, 1842, the day when England 
gave liberty to eight hundred thousand souls in the West Indies. The col- 
ored temperance societies selected this day to march in procession through 
the city, in the hope that such a demonstration would have the effect of 
bringing others into their ranks. They formed their procession, unfurled 
their teetotal banners, and proceeded to the accomplishment of their pur- 
pose. It was a delightful sight. But, sir, they had not proceeded down 
two streets before they were brutally assailed by a ruthless mob; their ban- 
ner was torn down, and trampled in the dust, their ranks broken up, their 


persons beaten and pelted with stones and brickbats. One of their churches 
was burned to the ground, and their best temperance hall utterly demol- 
ished." ["Shame! shame! shame!" from the audience — great confusion, 
and cries of " Sit down " from the American delegates on the platform.] 

In the midst of this commotion, the chairman tapped me on 
the shoulder, and whispering, informed me that the fifteen 
minutes allotted to each speaker had expired ; whereupon the 
vast audience simultaneously shouted : " Don't interrupt ! " 
" don't dictate ! " " go on ! " " go on ! " " Douglass ! " " Doug- 
lass ! " This continued several minutes, when 1 proceeded as 
follows : " Kind friends, I beg to assure you that the chairman 
has not in the slightest degree sought to alter any sentiment 
which I am anxious to express on this occasion. He was 
simply reminding me that the time allotted for me to speak 
had expired. I do not wish to occupy one moment more than 
is allotted to other speakers. Thanking you for your kind 
indulgence, I will take my seat." Proceeding to do so again, 
there were loud cries of " Go on ! " " go on ! " with which I 
complied for a few moments, but without saying anything 
more that particularly related to the colored people of America. 
I did not allow the letter of Dr. Cox to go unanswered through 
the American journals, but promptly exposed its unfairness. 
That letter is too long for insertion here. A part of it was 
published in the Evangelist, and in many other papers, both in 
this country and in England. Our eminent divine made no 
rejoinder, and his silence was regarded at the time as an 
admission of defeat. 

Another interesting circumstance connected with my visit 
to England, was the position of the Free church of Scotland 
with the great Doctors Chalmers, Cunningham, and Candlish 
at its head. That church had settled for itself the question 
which was frequently asked by the opponents of abolition at 
home — " What have we to do with slavery f " by accepting con- 
tributions from slaveholders ; i. e., receiving the price of blood 
into its treasury, with which to build churches and pay minis- 
ters for preaching the gospel; and worse than this, when 


honest John Murray of Bowlein Bay, with William Smeal, 
Andrew Paton, Frederick Card, and other sterling anti-slav- 
ery men in Glasgow, denounced the transaction as disgraceful, 
and shocking to the religious sentiment of Scotland, this 
church, through its leading divines, instead of repenting and 
seeking to amend the mistake into which it had fallen, caused 
that mistake to become a flagrant sin by undertaking to defend, 
in the name of God and the Bible, the principle not only of 
taking the money of slave-dealers to build churches and thus 
extend the gospel, but of holding fellowship with the traffick- 
ers in human flesh. This, the reader will see, brought up the 
whole question of slavery, and opened the way to its full dis- 
cussion. I have never seen a people more deeply moved than 
were the people of Scotland on this very question. Public 
meeting succeeded public meeting, speech after speech, pamph- 
let after pamphlet, editorial after editorial, sermon after ser- 
mon, lashed the conscientious Scotch people into a perfect 
furore. " Send back the money ! " was indignantly shouted 
from Greenock to Edinbugh, and from Edinburgh to Aber- 
deen. George Thompson of London, Henry C. Wright, J. X. 
Buffum and myself from America, were of course on the anti- 
slavery side, and Chalmers, Cunningham, and Candlish on the 
other. Dr. Cunningham was the most powerful debater on 
the slavery side of the question, Mr. Thompson the ablest on 
the anti-slavery side. A scene occurred between these two men, 
a parallel to which I think I have never witnessed before or 
since. It was caused by a single exclamation on the part of 
Mr. Thompson, and was on this wise : 

The general assembly of the Free Church was in progress at 
Cannon Mills, Edinburgh. The building would hold twenty- 
five hundred persons, and on this occasion was densely 
packed, notice having been given that Doctors Cunningham 
and Candlish would speak that day in defense of the rela- 
tions of the Free Church of Scotland to slavery in America. 
Messrs. Thompson, Buffum, myself and a few other anti- 
slavery friends attended, but sat at such distance and in such 


position as not to be observed from the platform. The excite- 
ment was intense, having been greatly increased by a series of 
meetings held by myself and friends, in the most splendid hall 
in that most beautiful city, just previous to this meeting of 
the general assembly. " Send back the money ! " in large 
capitals stared from every street corner ; " Send back the 
money ! " adorned the broad flags of the pavement ; " Sex\d 
back the money ! " was the chorus of the popular street- 
song; "Send back the money!" was the heading of leading 
editorials in the daily newspapers. This day, at Cannon 
Mills, the great doctors of the church were to give an answer 
to this loud and stern demand. Men of all parties and sects 
were most eager to hear. Something great was expected. 
The occasion was great, the men were great, and great 
speeches were expected from them. 

In addition to the outward pressure there was wavering 
within. The conscience of the church itself was not at ease. 
A dissatisfaction with the position of the church touching 
slavery was sensibly manifest among the members, and some- 
thing must be done to counteract this untoward influence. 
The great Dr. Chalmers was in feeble health at the time, so his 
most potent eloquence could not now be summoned to Cannon 
Mills, as formerly. He whose voice had been so powerful as 
to rend asunder and dash down the granite walls of the Estab- 
lished Church of Scotland, and to lead a host in solemn pro- 
cession from it as from a doomed city, was now old and enfee- 
bled. Besides he had said his word on this very question, 
and it had not silenced the clamor without nor stilled the 
anxious heavings within. The occasion was momentous, and 
felt to be so. The church was in a perilous condition. A 
change of some sort must take place, or she must go to 
pieces. To stand where she did was impossible. The whole 
weight of the matter fell on Cunningham and Candlish. No 
shoulders in the church were broader than theirs ; and I must 
say, badly as I detested the principles laid down and defended 
by them, I was compelled to acknowledge the vast mental 
endowment* of the men. 


Cunningham rose, and his rising was the signal for tumul- 
tuous applause. It may be said that this was scarcely in 
keeping with the solemnity of the occasion, but to me it 
served to increase its grandeur and gravity. The applause, 
though tumultuous, was not joyous. It seemed to me, as it 
thundered up from the vast audience, like the fall of an 
immense shaft, flung from shoulders already galled by its 
crushing weight. It was like saying " Doctor, we have borne 
this burden long enough, and willingly fling it upon you. 
Since it was you who brought it upon us, take it now and do 
what you will with it, for we are too weary to bear it." 

The Doctor proceeded with his speech — abounding in logic, 
learning, and eloquence, and apparently bearing down all oppo- 
sition ; but at tlje moment — the fatal moment — when he was 
just bringing all his arguments to a point, and that point 
being that " neither Jesus Christ nor his holy apostles 
regarded slaveholding as a sin," George Thompson, in a clear, 
sonorous, but rebuking voice, broke the deep stillness of the 
audience, exclaiming " Hear ! Hear ! Hear ! " The effect of 
this simple and common exclamation is almost incredible. It 
was as if a granite wall had been suddenly flung up against 
the advancing current of a mighty river. For a moment 
speaker and audience were brought to a dead silence. Both 
the Doctor and his hearers seemed appalled by the auda- 
city, as well as the fitness of the rebuke. At length a 
shout went up to the cry of " Put him out ! " Happily no 
one attempted to execute this cowardly order, and the dis- 
course went on ; but not as before. The exclamation of 
Thompson must have re-echoed a thousand times in his 
memory, for the Doctor, during the remainder of his speech, 
was utterly unable to recover from the blow. The deed was 
done, however; the pillars of the church — the proud Free 
Church of Scotland — were committed, and the humility of 
repentance was absent. The Free Church held on to the 
blood-stained money, and continued to justify itself in itg 


One good result followed the conduct of the Free Church : 
it furnished an occasion for making the people thoroughly 
acquainted with the character of slavery and for arraying 
against it the moral and religious sentiment of that country ; 
therefore, while we did not procure the sending back of the 
money, we were amply justified by the good which really did 
result from our labors. 

I must add one word in regard to the Evangelical Alliance. 
This was an attempt to form a union of all Evangelical Chris- 
tians throughout the world, and which held its first session in 
London, in the year 1846, at the time of the World's Temper- 
ance Convention there. Some sixty or seventy ministers from 
America attended this convention, the object of some of 
them being to weave a world-wide garment, with which to 
clothe evangelical slaveholders ; and in this they partially suc- 
ceeded. But the question of slavery was too large a question 
to be finally disposed of by the Evangelical Alliance, and 
from its judgment we appealed to the judgment of the people 
of Great Britain, with the happiest effect — this effort of our 
countrymen to shield the character of slaveholders serving to 
open a way to the British ear for anti-slavery discussion. 

I may mention here an incident somewhat amusing and 
instructive, as it serves to illustrate how easily Americans 
could set aside their notoriously inveterate prejudice against 
color, when it stood in the way of their wishes, or when in 
an atmosphere which made that prejudice unpopular and 

At the entrance to the House of Commons I had one day 
been conversing for a few moments with Lord Morpeth, and 
just as I was parting from him I felt an emphatic push 
against my arm, and, looking around, I saw at my elbow Rev. 
Dr. Kirk of Boston. " Introduce me to Lord Morpeth," he 
said. " Certainly," said I, and introduced him ; not without 
remembering, however, that the amiable Doctor would 
scarcely have asked such a favor of a colored man at home. 

The object of my labors in Great Britain was the concen- 


tration of the moral and religious sentiment of its people 
against American slavery. To this end, I visited and lectured 
in nearly all the large towns and cities in the United King- 
dom, and enjoyed many favorable opportunities for observa- 
tion and information. I should like to write a book on those 
countries, if for nothing else, to make grateful mention of the 
many dear friends whose benevolent actions towards me are 
ineff aceably stamped upon my memory, and warmly treasured 
in my heart. To these friends, I owe my freedom in the 
United States. 

Mrs. Ellen Richardson, an excellent member of the society 
of friends, assisted by her sister-in-law Mrs. Henry Richard- 
son, — a lady devoted to every good word and work — the friend 
of the Indian and the African, conceived the plan of raising 
a fund to effect my ransom from slavery. They corresponded 
with Hon. Walter Forward of Pennsylvania, and through 
him, ascertained that Captain Auld would take one hundred 
and fifty pounds sterling for me ; and this sum they promptly 
raised, and paid for my liberation ; placing the papers of my 
manumission into my hands, before they would tolerate the 
idea of my return to this my native land. To this commer- 
cial transaction, to this blood-money I owe my immunity 
from the operation of the fugitive slave law of 1793, and also 
from that of 1850. The whole affair speaks for itself and 
needs no comment now that slavery has ceased to exist in 
this country, and is not likely ever again to be revived. 

Some of my uncompromising anti-slavery friends in this 
country failed to see the wisdom of this commercial transac- 
tion, and were not pleased that I consented to it, even by my 
silence. They thought it a violation of anti-slavery principles, 
conceding the right of property in man, and a wasteful ex- 
penditure of money. For myself, viewing it simply in the 
light of a ransom, or as money extorted by a robber, and my 
liberty of more value than one hundred and fifty pounds ster- 
ling, I could not see either a violation of the laws of morality 
or of economy. It is true I was not in the possession of my 


claimants, and could have remained in England, for my 
friends would have generously assisted me in establishing my- 
self there. To this I could not consent. I felt it my duty to 
labor and suffer with my oppressed people in my native land. 
Considering all the circumstances, the fugitive bill included, I 
think now as then, that the very best thing was done in letting 
Master Hugh have the money, and thus leave me free to re- 
turn to my appropriate field of labor. Had I been a private 
person, with no relations or duties other than those of a per- 
sonal and family nature, I should not have consented to the 
payment of so large a sum, for the privilege of living securely 
under our glorious republican (?) form of government. I 
could have lived elsewhere, or perhaps might have been un- 
observed even here, but I had become somewhat notorious, 
and withal quite as unpopular in some directions as notorious, 
and I was therefore much exposed to arrest and capture.* 

* The following is a copy of these curious papers, both of my transfer 
from Thomas to Hugh Auld, and from Hugh to myself: 

"Know all men, by these presents: That I, Thomas Auld of Talbot 
county and state of Maryland, for and in consideration of the sum of one 
hundred dollars, current money, to me paid by Hugh Auld, of the city of 
Baltimore, in the said state, at and before the sealing and delivery of these 
presents, the receipt whereof, I the said Thomas Auld, do hereby acknowl- 
edge, have granted, bargained, and sold, and by these presents do grant, 
bargain, and sell unto the said Hugh Auld, his executors, administrators, 
and assigns, one negro man, by the name of Frederick Bailey — or 
Douglass as he calls himself — he is now about twenty-eight years of age — 
to have and to hold the said negro man for life. And I the said Thomas 
Auld, for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, all and singular, 
the said Frederick Bailt alias Douglass unto the said Hugh Auld, his 
executors and administrators, and against all and every other person or 
persons whatsoever, shall and will warrant and forever defend by these pres- 
ents. In witness whereof, I set my hand and seal, this thirteenth day of No- 
vember, eighteen hundred and forty-six (1846.) Thomas Auld. 

" Signed, sealed, and delivered, in presence of Wrightson Jones, John C. 

The authenticity of this bill of sale is attested by N. Harrington, a justice 
of the peace of the state of Maryland, and for the county of Talbot, dated 
same day as above. 

"To all whom it may concern: Be it known that I, Hugh Auld, of the 
city of Baltimore, in Baltimore county in the state of Mar) land, for divers 


Having remained abroad nearly two years, and being about 
to return to America, not as I left it — a slave, but a freeman, 
prominent friends of the cause of emancipation intimated 
their intention to make me a testimonial both on grounds of 
personal regard to me, and also to the cause to which they 
were so ardently devoted. How such a project would have 
succeeded I do not know, but many reasons led me to prefer 
that my friends should simply give me the means of obtaining 
a printing press and materials, to enable me to start a paper, 
advocating the interests of my enslaved and oppressed people. 
I told them that perhaps the greatest hindrance to the adop- 
tion of abolition principles by the people of the United States, 
was the low estimate everywhere in that country placed upon 
the negro as a man : that because of his assumed natural in- 
feriority, people reconciled themselves to his enslavement and 
oppression, as being inevitable if not desirable. The grand 
thing to be done, therefore, was to change this estimation, by 
disproving his inferiority and demonstrating his capacity for 
a more exalted civilization than slavery and prejudice had 
assigned him. In my judgment a tolerably well conducted 
press in the hands of persons of the despised race, would by 
calling out and making them acquainted with their own latent 
powers, by enkindling their hope of a future, and developing 
their moral force, prove a most powerful means of removing 
prejudice and awakening an interest in them. At that time 

good causes and considerations, me thereunto moving, have released from 
slavery, liberated, manumitted, and set free, and bj" these presents do hereby 
release from slavery, liberate, manumit, and set free, my negro man, named 
Frederick Baily, otherwise called Douglass, being of the age of twenty- 
eight years, or thereabouts, and able to work and gain a sufficient livelihood 
and maintenance ; and him the said negro man, named Frederick Doug- 
lass, I do declare to be henceforth free, manumitted, and discharged from 
all manner of servitude to me, my executors and administrators forever. 

"In witness whereof, I the said Hugh Auld, have hereunto set my hand 
and seal the fifth of December, in the year one thousand eight hundred and 
forty-six. Hugh Auld. 

" Sealed and delivered in presence of T. Hanson Belt, James N. S. T. 


there was not a single newspaper regularly published by the 
colored people in the country, though many attempts had been 
made to establish such, and had from one cause or another 
failed. These views I laid before my friends. The result 
was, that nearly two thousand five hundred dollars were 
speedily raised towards my establishing such a paper as I had 
indicated. For this prompt and generous assistance, rendered 
upon my bare suggestion, without any personal effort on my 
part, I shall never cease to feel deeply grateful, and the 
thought of fulfilling the expectations of the dear friends who 
had given me this evidence of their confidence, was an abid- 
ing inspiration for persevering exertion. 

Proposing to leave England, and turning my face toward 
America in the spring of 1847, 1 was painfully reminded of 
the kind of life which awaited me on my arrival. For the first 
time in the many months spent abroad, I was met with pro- 
scription on account of my color. While in London I had 
purchased a ticket, and secured a berth, for returning home in 
the Cambria — the steamer in which I had come from thence 
— and paid therefor the round sum of forty pounds, nineteen 
shillings sterling. This was first cabin fare ; but on going on 
board I found that the Liverpool agent had ordered my berth 
to be given to another, and forbidden my entering the saloon. 
It was rather hard after having enjoyed for so long a time 
equal social privileges, after dining with persons of great 
literary, social, political, and religious eminence, and never, 
during the whole time, having met with a single word, look, 
or gesture, which gave me the slightest reason to think my 
color was an offense to anybody — now to be cooped up in the 
stern of the Cambria, and denied the right to enter the saloon, 
lest my presence should disturb some democratic fellow-pass- 
enger. The reader can easily imagine what must have been 
my feelings under such an indignity. 

This contemptible conduct met with stern rebuke from the 
British press. The London Times, and other leading journals 
throughout the United Kingdom, held up the outrage to 


unmitigated condemnation. So good an opportunity for call- 
ing out British sentiment on the subject had not before 
occurred, and it was fully embraced. The result was that Mr. 
Cunard came out in a letter expressive of his regret, and prom- 
ising that the like indignity should never occur again on his 
steamers, which promise I believe has been faithfully kept. 



New Experiences — Painful Disagreement of Opinion with, old Friends- 
Final Decision to Publish my Paper in Rochester — Its Fortunes and its 
Friends — Change in my own Views Regarding the Constitution of the 
United States — Fidelity to Conviction — Loss of Old Friends — Support of 
New Ones — Loss of House, etc., by Fire — Triumphs and Trials — Under- 
ground Railroad — Incidents. 

PREPARED as I was to meet with many trials and per- 
plexities on reaching home, one of which I little dreamed 
was awaiting me. My plans for future usefulness, as indicated 
in the last chapter, were all settled, and in imagination I 
already saw myself wielding my pen as well as my voice in 
the great work of renovating the public mind, and building up 
a public sentiment, which should send slavery to the grave, 
and restore to " liberty and the pursuit of happiness " the 
people with whom I had suffered. 

My friends in Boston had been informed of what I was 
intending, and I expected to find them favorably disposed 
toward my cherished enterprise. In this I was mistaken. 
They had many reasons against it. First, no such paper was 
needed ; secondly, it would interfere with my usefulness as a 
lecturer ; thirdly, I was better fitted to speak than to write ; 
fourthly, the paper could not succeed. This opposition from 
a quarter so highly esteemed, and to which I had been accus- 
tomed to look for advice and direction, caused me not only to 
hesitate, but inclined me to abandon the undertaking. All 
previous attempts to establish such a journal having failed, I 
feared lest I should but add another to the list, and thus con- 
tribute another proof of the mental deficiencies of my race. 
Very much that was said to me in respect to my imperfect 
literary attainments, I felt to be most painfully true. The 
unsuccessful projectors of all former attempts had been my 



superiors in point of education, and if they had failed how 
could I hope for success ? Yet I did hope for success, and 
persisted in the undertaking, encouraged by my English 
friends t# go forward. 

I can easily pardon those who saw in my persistence an 
unwarrantable ambition and presumption. I was but nine 
years from slavery. In many phases of mental experience I 
was but nine years old. That one under such circumstances 
should aspire to establish a printing press, surrounded by an 
educated people, might well be considered unpractical if not 
ambitious. My American friends looked at me with astonish- 
ment. " A wood-sawyer " offering himself to the public as an 
editor! A slave, brought up in the depths of ignorance, 
assuming to instruct the highly civilized people of the north 
in the principles of liberty, justice, and humanity ! The thing 
looked absurd. Nevertheless I persevered. I felt that the 
want of education, great as it was, could be overcome by 
study, and that wisdom would come by experience ; and 
further (which was perhaps the most controlling consideration) 
I thought that an intelligent public, knowing my early history, 
would easily pardon the many deficiencies which I well knew 
that my paper must exhibit. The most distressing part of it 
all was the offense which I saw I must give my friends of the 
old Anti-Slavery organization, by what seemed to them a 
reckless disregard of their opinion and advice. I am not sure 
that I was not under the influence of something like a slavish 
adoration of these good people, and I labored hard to convince 
them that my way of thinking about the matter was the right 
one, but without success. 

From motives of peace, instead of issuing my paper in 
Boston, among New England friends, I went to Rochester, N. 
Y., among strangers, where the local circulation of my paper 
— " The North Star " — would not interfere with that of the 
Liberator or the Anti-Slavery Standard, for I was then a 
faithful disciple of Wm. Lloyd Garrison, and fully committed 
to his doctrine touching the pro-slavery character of the Con- 


stitution of the United States, also the non-voting principle of 
which he was the known and distinguished advocate. With 
him, I held it to be the first duty of the non-slaveholding States 
to dissolve the union with the slaveholding States, and hence 
my cry, like his, was " No union with slaveholders." With 
these views I came into western New York, and during the 
first four years of my labors here I advocated them with pen 
and tongue, to the best of my ability. After a time, a care- 
ful reconsideration of the subject convinced me that there was 
no necessity for dissolving the " union between the northern 
and southern States ; " that to seek this dissolution was no 
part of my duty as an abolitionist ; that to abstain from voting 
was to refuse to exercise a legitimate and powerful means for 
abolishing slavery ; and that the Constitution of the United 
States not only contained no guarantees in favor of slavery, 
but on the contrary, was in its letter and spirit an anti-slavery 
instrument, demanding the abolition of slavery as a condition 
of its own existence, as the supreme law of the land. 

This radical change in my opinions produced a correspond- 
ing change in my action. To those with whom I had been in 
agreement and in sympathy, I came to be in opposition. What 
they held to be a great and important truth I now looked upon 
as a dangerous error. A very natural, but to me a very pain- 
ful thing, now happened. Those who could not see any hon- 
est reasons for changing their views, as I had done, could not 
easily see any such reasons for my change, and the common 
punishment of apostates was mine. 

My first opinions were naturally derived and honestly enter- 
tained. Brought directly, when I escaped from slavery, into 
contact with abolitionists who regarded the Constitution as a 
slaveholding instrument, and finding their views supported by 
the united and entire history of every department of the gov- 
ernment, it is not strange that I assumed the Constitution to 
be just what these friends made it seem to be. I was bound 
not only by their superior knowledge to take their opinions in 
respect to this subject, as the true ones, but also because I 


had no means of showing their unsoundness. But for the 
responsibility of conducting a public journal, and the necessity 
imposed upon me of meeting opposite views from abolitionists 
outside of New England, I should in all probability have 
remained firm in my disunion views. My new circumstances 
compelled me to re-think the whole subject, and study with 
some care not only the just and proper rules of legal interpre- 
tation, but the origin, design, nature, rights, powers, and duties 
of civil governments, and also the relations which human 
beings sustain to it. By such a course of thought and reading 
I was conducted to the conclusion that the Constitution of the 
United States — inaugurated " to form a more perfect union, 
establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the 
common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the 
blessings of liberty " — could not well have been designed at 
the same time to maintain and perpetuate a system of rapine 
and murder like slavery, especially as not one word can be 
found in the Constitution to authorize such a belief. Then, 
again, if the declared purposes of an instrument are to govern 
the meaning of all its parts and details, as they clearly should, 
the Constitution of our country is our warrant for the abolition 
of slavery in every State of the Union. It would require much 
time and space to set forth the arguments which demonstrated 
to my mind the unconstitutionality of slavery ; but being con- 
vinced of the fact my duty was plain upon this point in the 
farther conduct of my paper. The North Star was a large 
sheet, published weekly, at a cost of $80 per week, and an 
average circulation of 3,000 subscribers. There were many 
times, when in my experience as editor and publisher, I was 
very hard pressed for money, but by one means or another I 
succeeded so well as to keep my pecuniary engagements, and 
to keep my anti-slavery banner steadily flying during all the 
conflict from the autumn of 1847 till the union of the States 
was assured and emancipation was a fact accomplished. I had 
friends abroad as well as at home who helped me liberally. I 
can never be too grateful to Rev. Russell Laut Carpenter and 


to Mrs. Carpenter, for the moral and material aid they tendered 
me through all the vicissitudes of my paper enterprise. But 
to no one person was I more indebted for substantial assist- 
ance than to Mrs. Julia Griffiths Crofts. She came to my 
relief when my paper had nearly absorbed all my means, and 
was heavily in debt, and when I had mortgaged my house to 
raise money to meet current expenses ; and by her energetic 
and effective management, in a single year enabled me to 
extend the circulation of my paper from 2,000 to 4,000 copies, 
pay off the debts and lift the mortgage from my house. Her 
industry was equal to her devotion. She seemed to rise with 
every emergency, and her resources appeared inexhaustible. 
I shall never cease to remember with sincere gratitude the 
assistance rendered me by this noble lady, and I mention her 
here in the desire in some humble measure to " give honor to 
whom honor is due." During the first three or four years my 
paper was published under the name of the North Star, It 
was subsequently changed to Frederick Douglass' Paper in 
order to distinguish it from the many papers with " Stars " in 
their titles. There were "North Stars," "Morning Stars," 
" Evening Stars," and I know not how many other stars in 
the newspaper firmament, and some confusion arose naturally 
enough in distinguishing between them ; for this reason, and 
also because some of these stars were older than my star I felt 
that mine, not theirs, ought to be the one to u go out." 

Among my friends in this country, who helped me in my 
earlier efforts to maintain my paper, I may proudly count such 
men as the late Hon. Gerrit Smith, and Chief Justice Chase, 
Hon. Horace Mann, Hon. Joshua R. Giddings, Hon. Charles 
Sumner, Hon. John G. Palfry, Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Rev. 
Samuel J. May, and many others, who though of lesser note 
were equally devoted to my cause. Among these latter ones 
were Isaac and Amy Post, William and Mary Hallowell, Asa 
and Hulda Anthony, and indeed all the committee of the 
Western New York Anti-Slavery Society. They held festivals 
and fairs to raise money, and assisted me in every other possi- 


b!e way to keep my paper in circulation, while I was a non- 
voting abolitionist, but withdrew from me when I became a 
voting abolitionist. For a time the withdrawal of their 
cooperation embarrassed me very much, but soon another class 
of friends were raised up for me, chief amongst whom were 
the Porter family of Rochester. The late Samuel D. Porter 
and his wife Susan F. Porter, and his sisters, Maria and 
Elmira Porter, deserve grateful mention as among my stead- 
fast friends, who did much in the way of supplying pecuniary 

Of course there were moral forces operating against me in 
Rochester, as well as material ones. There were those who 
regarded the publication of a " Negro paper n in that beautiful 
city as a blemish and a misfortune. The New York Herald, 
true to the spirit of the times, counselled the people of the 
place to throw my printing press into Lake Ontario and to 
banish me to Canada, and while they were not quite prepared 
for this violence, it was plain that many of them did not well 
relish my presence amongst them. This feeling, however, 
wore away gradually, as the people knew more of me and my 
works. I lectured every Sunday evening dining an entire 
winter in the beautiful Corinthian Hall, then owned by Wm. 
R. Reynolds, Esq., who though he was not an abolitionist, was 
a lover of fair-play and was willing to allow me to be heard. 
If in these lectures I did not make abolitionists I did succeed 
in making tolerant the moral atmosphere in Rochester ; so 
much so, indeed, that I came to feel as much at home there as 
I had ever done in the most friendly parts of New England. 
I had been at work there with my paper but a few years before 
colored travelers told me that they felt. the influence of my 
labors when they came within fifty miles. I did not rely 
alone upon what I could do by the paper, but would write all 
day, then take a train to Victor, Farmington, Canan- 
daigua, Geneva, Waterloo, Batavia, or Buffalo, or elsewhere, 
and speak in the evening, returning home afterwards or early 
in the morning, to be again at my desk writing or mailing 


papers. There were times when I almost thought my Boston 
friends were right in dissauding me from my newspaper pro- 
ject. But looking back to those nights and days of toil and 
thought, compelled often to do work for which I had no 
educational preparation, I have come to think that, under the 
circumstances it was the best school possible for me. It 
obliged me to think and read, it taught me to express my 
thoughts clearly, and was perhaps better than any other course 
I could have adopted. Besides it made it necessary for me to 
lean upon myself, and not upon the heads of our Anti-Slavery 
church. To be a principal, and not an agent. I had an 
audience to speak to every week, and must say something 
worth their hearing, or cease to speak altogether. There is 
nothing like the lash and sting of necessity to make a man 
work, and my paper furnished this motive power. More than 
one gentleman from the south, when stopping at Niagara, 
came to see me, that they might know for themselves if I 
could indeed write, having as they said believed it impossible 
that an uneducated fugitive slave could write the articles 
attributed to me. I found it hard to get credit in some quar- 
ters either for what I wrote or what I said. While there was 
nothing very profound or learned in either, the low estimate 
of Negro possibilities induced the belief that both my editorials 
and my speeches were written by white persons. I doubt if 
this scepticism does not still linger in the minds of some of 
my democratic fellow-citizens. 

The 2d of June, 1872, brought me a very grievous loss. 
My house in Rochester was burnt to the ground, and among 
other tilings of value, twelve volumes of my paper, covering 
the period from 1848 to 1860, were devoured by the flames. 
I have never been able to replace them, and the loss is im- 
measurable. Only a few weeks before, I had been invited to 
send these bound volumes to the library of Harvard Univers- 
ity where they would have been preserved in a fire-proof 
building, and the result of my procrastination attests the 
wisdom of more than one proverb. Outside the years em- 


braced in the late tremendous war, there has been no period, 
more pregnant with great events, or better suited to call out 
the best mental and moral energies of men, than that covered 
by these lost volumes. If I have at any time said or written 
that which is worth remembering or repeating, I must have 
said such things between the years 1848 and 1860, and my 
paper was a chronicle of most of what I said during that 
time. Within that space we had the great Free Soil Con- 
vention at Buffalo, the Nomination of Martin Yan Buren, the 
Fugitive Slave Law, the 7th March Speech by Daniel Webster, 
the Dred Scott decision, the repeal of the Missouri Compro- 
mise, the Kansas Nebraska bill, the Border war in Kansas, 
the John Brown raid upon Harper's Ferry, and a part of the 
War against the Rebellion, with much else, well calculated to 
fire the souls of men having one spark of Liberty and Patri- 
otism within them. I have only fragments now, of all the 
work accomplished during these twelve years, and must cover 
this chasm, as best I can from memory and the incidental 
items, which I am able to glean from various sources. Two 
volumes of the North Star have been kindly supplied me, by 
my friend, Marshall Pierce of Saco, Me. He had these care- 
fully preserved and bound in one cover and sent to me in 
Washington. He was one of the most systematically careful 
men of all my anti-slavery friends, for I doubt if another 
entire volume of the paper exists. 

One important branch of my anti-slavery work in Rochester, 
in addition to that of speaking and writing against slavery, 
must not be forgotten or omitted. My position gave me the 
chance of hitting that old enemy some telling blows, in 
another direction than these. I was on the southern border 
of Lake Ontario, and the Queen's pominions were right over 
the way — and my prominence as an abolitionist, and as the 
editor of an anti-slavery paper, naturally made me the station 
master and conductor of the underground railroad passing 
through this goodly city. Secrecy and concealment were 
necessary conditions to the successful operation of this rail- 


road, and hence its prefix "underground." My agency was 
all the more exciting and interesting, because not altogether 
free from danger. I could take no step in it without exposing 
myself to fine and imprisonment, for these were the penalties 
imposed by the fugitive slave law, for feeding, harboring, or 
otherwise assisting a slave to escape from his master ; but in 
face of this fact, I can say, I never did more congenial, attrac- 
tive, fascinating, and satisfactory work. True as a means of 
destroying slavery, it was like an attempt to bail out the 
ocean with a teaspoon, but the thought that there was one less 
slave, and one more freeman, — having myself been a slave, 
and a fugitive slave — brought to my heart unspeakable joy. 
On one occasion I had eleven fugitives at the same time under 
my roof, and it was necessary for them to remain with me, 
until I could collect sufficient money to get them on to Can- 
ada. It was the largest number I ever had at any one time, 
and I had some difficulty in providing so many with food 
and shelter, but as may well be imagined, they were not very 
fastidious in either direction, and were well content with very 
plain food, and a strip of carpet on the floor for a bed, or a 
place on the straw in the barn loft. 

The underground railroad had many branches ; but that one 
with which I was connected had its main stations in Baltimore, 
Wilmington, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Syracuse, 
Rochester, and St. Catharines (Canada). It is not necessary 
to tell who were the principal agents in Baltimore ; Thomas 
Garrett was the agent in Wilmington ; MBlloe McKim, Wil- 
liam Still, Robert Purvis, Edward M. Davis, and others did 
the work in Philadelphia ; David Ruggles, Isaac T. Hopper, 
Napolian, and others, in New York city ; the Misses Mott and 
Stephen Myers, were forwarders from Albany ; Revs. Samuel 
J. May and J. W. Loguen, were the agents in Syracuse ; and 
J. P. Morris and myself received and dispatched passengers 
from Rochester to Canada, where they were received by Rev. 
Hiram Wilson. When a party arrived in Rochester, it was 
the business of Mr. Morris and myself to raise funds with 


which to pay their passages to St. Catharines, and it is due to 
truth to state, that we seldom called in vain upon whig or 
democrat for help. Men were better than their theology, and 
truer to humanity, than to their politics, or their offices. 

On one occasion while a slave master was in the office of a 
United States commissioner, procuring the papers necessary 
for the arrest and rendition of three young men who had 
escaped from Maryland, (one of whom was under my roof at 
the time, another at Farmington, and the other at work on 
the farm of Asa Anthony just a little outside the city limits,) 
the law partner of the* commissioner, then a distinguished 
democrat, sought me out, and told me what was going on in 
his office, and urged me by all means to get these young men 
out of the way of their pursuers and claimants. Of course 
no time was to be lost. A swift horseman was dispatched to 
Farmington, eighteen miles distant, another to Asa Anthony's 
farm about three miles, and another to my house on the south 
side of the city, and before the papers could be served, all 
three of the young men were on the free waves of Lake 
Ontario, bound to Canada. In writing to their old master, 
they had dated their letter at Rochester, though they had 
taken the precaution to send it to Canada to be mailed, but 
this blunder in the date had betrayed their whereabouts, so 
that the hunters were at once on their tracks. 

So numerous were the fugitives passing through Rochester 
that I was obliged at last to appeal to my British friends for 
the means of sending them on their way, and when Mr. and 
Mrs. Carpenter and Mrs. Croffts took the matter in hand, I had 
n^ver any further trouble in that respect. When slavery was 
abolished I wrote to Mrs. Carpenter, congratulating her that 
she was relieved of the work of raising funds for such purposes, 
and the characteristic reply of that lady was that she had been 
very glad to do what she had done, and had no wish for relief. 

My pathway was not entirely free from thorns in Rochester, 
and the wounds and pains inflicted by them were perhaps 
much less easily borne, because of my exemption from such 


annoyances while in England. Men can in time become 
accustomed to almost anything, even to being insulted and 
ostracised, but such treatment comes hard at first, and when 
to some extent unlooked for. The vulgar prejudice against 
color, so common to Americans, met me in several disagreea- 
ble forms. A seminary for young ladies and misses, under 
the auspices of Miss Tracy, was near my house on Alexander 
street, and desirous of having my daughter educated like the 
daughters of other men, I applied to Miss Tracy for her admis- 
sion to her school. All seemed fair, and the child was duly 
sent to "Tracy Seminary," and I went about my business 
happy in the thought that she was in the way of a refined and 
Christian education. Several weeks elapsed before I knew 
how completely I was mistaken. The little girl came home 
to me one day and told me she was lonely in that school ; that 
die was in fact kept in solitary confinement ; that she was not 
allowed in the room with the other girls, nor to go into the 
yard when they went out ; that she was kept in a room by 
herself and not permitted to be seen or heard by the others. 
No man with the feeling of a parent could be less than moved 
by such a revelation, and I confess that I was shocked, grieved, 
and indignant. I went at once to Miss Tracy to ascertain if 
what I had heard was true, and was coolly told it was, and the 
miserable plea was offered that it would have injured her 
school if she had done otherwise. I told her she should have 
told me so at the beginning, but I did not believe that any girl 
in the school would be opposed to the presence of my daughter, 
and that I should be glad to have the question submitted to 
them. She consented to this, and to the credit of the young 
ladies, not one made objection. Not satisfied with this verdict 
of the natural and uncorrupted sense of justice and humanity 
of these young ladies, Miss Tracy insisted that the parents 
must be consulted, and if one of them objected she should 
not admit my child to the same apartment and privileges of 
the other pupils. One parent only had the cruelty to object, 
and he was Mr. Horatio G. Warner, a democratic editor, and 


upon his adverse conclusion, my daughter was excluded from 
"Tracy Seminary." Of course Miss Tracy was a devout 
Christian lady after the fashion of the time and locality, in 
good and regular standing in the church. 

My troubles attending the education of my children were 
not to end here. They were not allowed in the public school 
in the district in which I lived, owned property, and paid taxes, 
but were compelled, if they went to a public school, to go over 
to the other side of the city, to an inferior colored school. I 
hardly need say that I was not prepared to submit tamely 
to this proscription, any more than I had been to submit to 
slavery, so I had them taught at home for a while, by Miss 
Thayer. Meanwhile I went to the people with the question 
and created considerable agitation. I sought and obtained a 
hearing before the Board of Education, and after repeated 
efforts with voice and pen, the doors of the public schools were 
opened and colored children were permitted to attend them in 
common with others. 

There were barriers erected against colored people in most 
other places of instruction and amusements in the city, and 
until I went there they were imposed without any apparent 
sense of injustice or wrong, and submitted to in silence ; but 
one by one they have gradually been removed and colored 
people now enter freely all places of public resort without 
hindrance or observation. This change has not been wholly 
effected by me. From the first I was cheered on and supported 
in my demands for equal rights by such respectable citizens as 
Isaac Post, Wm. Hallowell, Samuel D. Porter, Wm. C. Bloss, 
Benj. Fish, Asa Anthony, and many other good and true men 
of Rochester. 

Notwithstanding what I have said of the adverse feeling 
exhibited by some of its citizens at my selection of Rochester 
as the place to establish my paper, and the trouble in educa- 
tional matters just referred to, that selection was in many 
respects very fortunate. The city was, and still is, the center 
of a virtuous, intelligent, enterprising, liberal, and growing 


population. The surrounding country is remarkable for its 
fertility ; and the city itself possesses one of the finest water- 
powers in the world. It is on the line of the New York Cen- 
tral railroad — a line that with its connections, spans the whole 
country. Its people were industrious and in comfortable cir- 
cumstances ; not so rich as to be indifferent to the claims of 
humanity, and not so poor as to be unable to help any good 
cause which commanded the approval of their judgment. 

The ground had been measurably prepared for me by the 
labors of others — notably by Hon. Myron Holley, whose monu- 
ment of enduring- marble now stands in the beautiful cemetery 
at Mount Hope, upon an eminence befitting his noble charac- 
ter. I know of no place in the Union where I could have 
located at the time with less resistance, or received a larger 
measure of sympathy and cooperation, and I now look back to 
my life and labors there with unalloyed satisfaction, and 
having spent a quarter of a century among its people, I shall 
always feel more at home there than any where else in this 

Portrait of John Browx. 



My First Meeting with Capt. John Brown — The Free Soil Movement — Col- 
ored Convention — Uncle Tom's Cabin — Industrial School for Colored 
People — Letter to Mrs. H. B. Stowe. 

ABOUT the time I began my enterprise in Rochester I 
chanced to spend a night and a day under the roof of a 
man whose character and conversation, and whose objects and 
aims in life made a very deep impression upon my mind and 
heart. His name had been mentioned to me by several promi- 
nent colored men, among whom were the Rev. Henry High- 
land Garnet and J. W. Loguen. In speaking of him their 
voices would drop to a whisper, and what they said of him 
made me very eager to see and know him. Fortunately I was 
invited to see him in his own house. At the time to which I 
now refer this man was a respectable merchant in a populous 
and thriving city, and our first place of meeting was at his 
store. This was a substantial brick building, on a prominent, 
busy street. A glance at the interior, as well as at the mas- 
sive walls without, gave me the impression that the owner 
must be a man of considerable wealth. From this store I was 
conducted to his house, where I was kindly received as an 
expected guest. My welcome was all I could have asked. 
Every member of the family, young and old, seemed glad to 
see me, and I was made much at home in a very little while. 
I was, however, a little disappointed with the appearance of 
the house and with its location. After seeing the fine store I 
was prepared to see a fine residence, in an eligible locality, but 
this conclusion was completely dispelled by actual observation. 
In fact, the house was neither commodious nor elegant, nor its 
situation desirable. It was a small wooden building, on a 
back street, in a neighborhood chiefly occupied by laboring 



men and mechanics ; respectable enough to be sure, but not 
quite the place, I thought, where one would look for the resi- 
dence of a flourishing and successful merchant. Plain as was 
the outside of this man's house, the inside was plainer. Its 
furniture would have satisfied a Spartan. . It would take 
longer to tell what was not in this house than what was in it. 
There was an air of plainness about it which almost suggested 
destitution. My first meal passed under the misnomer of tea, 
though there was nothing about it resembling the usual signifi- 
cance of that term. It consisted of beef soup, cabbage, and 
potatoes ; a meal such as a man might relish after following 
the plow all day, or performing a forced march of a dozen 
miles over a rough road in frosty weather. Innocent of paint, 
vaneering, varnish, or table-cloth, the table announced itself 
unmistakably of pine and of the plainest workmanship. There 
was no hired help visible. The mother, daughters, and sons 
did the serving and did it well. They were evidently used to 
it, and had no thought of any impropriety or degradation in 
being their own servants. It is said that a house in some 
measure reflects the character of its occupants ; this one cer- 
tainly did. In it there were no disguises, no illusions, no make 
believes. Everything implied stern truth, solid purpose, and 
rigid economy. I was not long in company with the master 
of this house before I discovered that he was indeed the master 
of it, and was likely to become mine too if I stayed long 
enough with him. He fulfilled St. Paul's idea of the head of 
the family His wife believed in him, and his children 
observed him with reverence. Whenever he spoke his words 
commanded earnest attention. His arguments, which I ven- 
tured at some points to oppose, seemed to convince all ; his 
appeals touched all, and his will impressed all. Certainly I 
never felt myself in the presence of a stronger religious influ- 
ence than while in this man's house. 

In person he was lean, strong, and sinewy, of the best New 
England mould, built for times of trouble, fitted to grapple 
with the flintiest hardships. Clad in plain American woolen, 


shod in boots of cowhide leather, and wearing a cravat of the 
same substantial material, under six feet high, less than 150 
pounds in weight, aged about fifty, he presented a figure, 
straight and symmetrical as a mountain pine. His bearing 
was singularly impressive. His head was not large, but com- 
pact and high. His hair was coarse, strong, slightly gray and 
closely trimmed, and grew low on his forehead. His face was 
smoothly shaved, and revealed a strong square mouth, sup- 
ported by a broad and prominent chin. His eyes were bluish 
gray, and in conversation they were full of light and fire. 
When on the street, he moved with a long, springing race 
horse step, absorbed by his own reflections, neither seeking or 
shunning observation. Such was the man, whose name I had 
heard in whispers, such was the spirit of his house and fam- 
ily, such was the house in which he lived, and such was Cap- 
tain John Brown, whose name has now passed into history, as 
one of the most marked characters, and greatest heroes known 
to American fame. 

After the strong meal already described, Captain Brown 
cautiously approached the subject which he wished to bring 
to my attention ; for he seemed to apprehend opposition to his 
views. He denounced slavery in look and language fierce and 
bitter, thought that slaveholders had forfeited their right to 
live, that the slaves had the right to gain their liberty in any 
way they could, did not believe that moral suasion would ever 
liberate the slave, or that political action would abolish the 
system. He said that he had long had a plan which could 
accomplish this end, and he had invited me to his house to 
lay that plan before me. He said he had been for some time 
looking for colored men to whom he could safely reveal his 
secret, and at times he had almost despaired of finding such 
men, but that now he was encouraged, for he saw heads of 
such rising up in all directions. He had observed my course 
at home and abroad, and he wanted my cooperation. His 
plan as it then lay in his mind, had much to commend it. It 
did not, as some suppose, contemplate a general rising among 


the slaves, and a general slaughter of the slave masters. An 
insurrection he thought would only defeat the object, but his 
plan did contemplate the creating of an armed force which 
should act in the very heart of the south. He was not averse 
to the shedding of blood, and thought the practice of carrying 
arms would be a good one for the colored people to adopt, as 
it would give them a sense of their manhood. No people he 
said could have self respect, or be respected, who would not 
fight for their freedom. He called my attention to a map of 
the United States, and pointed out to me the far-reaching 
Alleghanies, which stretch away from the borders of New 
York, into the Southern States. " These mountains," he said, 
" are the basis of my plan. God has given the strength of the 
hills to freedom, they were placed here for the emancipation 
of the negro race ; they are full of natural forts, where one 
man for defense will be equal to a hundred for attack ; they 
are full also of good hiding places, where large numbers of 
brave men could be concealed, and baffle and elude pursuit 
for a long time. I know these mountains well, and could take 
a body of men into them and keep them there despite of all 
the efforts of Virginia to dislodge them. The true object to 
be sought is first of all to destroy the money value of slave 
property ; and that can only be done by rendering such pro- 
perty insecure. My plan then is to take at first about twenty- 
five picked men, and begin on a small scale; supply them 
arms and ammunition, post them in squads of fives on a line 
of twenty-five miles, the most persuasive and judicious of 
whom shall go down to the fields from time to time, as op- 
portunity offers, and induce the slaves to join them, seeking 
and selecting the most restless and daring." 

He saw that in this part of the work the utmost care must 
be used to avoid treachery and disclosure. Only the most 
conscientious and skillful should be sent on this perilous duty; 
with care and enterprise he thought he could soon gather a 
force of one hundred hardy men, men who would be content 
to lead the free and adventurous life to which he proposed to 


train them, when these were properly drilled, and each man 
had found the place for which he was best suited, they would 
begin work in earnest ; they would run off the slaves in large 
numbers, retain the brave and strong ones in the mountains, 
and send the weak and timid to the north by the underground 
railroad; his operations would be enlarged with increasing 
numbers, and would not be confined to one locality. 

When I asked him, how he would support these men? he 
said emphatically, he would subsist them upon the enemy. 
Slavery was a state of war, and the slave had a right to any- 
thing necessary to his freedom. But said I, "suppose you 
succeed in running off a few slaves, and thus impress the 
Virginia slaveholder with a sense of insecurityin their slaves, 
the effect will be only to make them sell their slaves further 
south." " That," said he, " will be first what I want to do ; then 
I would follow them up. If we could drive slavery out of one 
county, it would be a great gain ; it would weaken the system 
throughout the state." " But they would employ bloodhounds 
to hunt you out of the mountains." "That they might at- 
tempt," said he, " but the chances are, we should whip them, 
and when we should have whipt one squad, they would be 
careful how they pursued." " But you might be surrounded 
and cut off from your provisions or means of subsistence." 
He thought that could not be done so they could not cut their 
way out, but even if the worst came, he could but be killed, 
and he had no better use for his life than to lay it down in 
the cause of the slave. When I suggested that we might 
convert the slaveholders, he became much excited, and said 
that could never be, "he knew their proud hearts and that 
they would never be induced to give up their slaves, until they 
felt a big stick about their heads." He observed that I might 
have noticed the simple manner in which he lived, adding 
that he had adopted this method in order to save money to 
carry out his purposes. This was said in no boastful tone, 
for he felt that 'he had delayed already too long and had no 
room to boast either his zeal or his self denial. Had some 


men made such display of rigid virtue, I should have rejected 
it, as affected, false and hypocritical, but in John Brown, I felt 
it to be real as iron or granite. From this night spent with 
John Brown in Springfield, Mass., 1847, while I continued to 
write and speak against slavery, I became all the same less 
hopeful of its peaceful abolition. My utterances became more 
and more tinged by the color of this man's strong impressions. 
Speaking at an anti-slavery convention in Salem, Ohio, I ex- 
pressed this apprehension that slavery could only be destroyed 
by blood-shed, when I was suddenly and sharply interrupted 
by my good old friend Sojourner Truth with the question, 
"Frederick, is God dead?" "No." I answered, and "be- 
cause God is not dead slavery can only end in blood." My 
quaint old sister was of the Garrison school of non-resistants, 
and was shocked at my sanguinary doctrine, but she too be- 
came an advocate of the sword, when the war for the mainte- 
nance of the Union was declared. 

In 1848 it was my privilege to attend, and in some measure 
to participate in the famous Free-Soil Convention held in 
Buffalo, New York. It was avast and variegated assemblage, 
composed of persons from all sections of the North, and may 
be said to have formed a new departure in the history of forces 
organized to resist the growing and aggressive demands of 
slavery and the slave power. Until this Buffalo convention 
anti-slavery agencies had been mainly directed to the work of 
changing public sentiment by exposing through the press and 
on the platform the nature of the slave system. Anti-slavery 
thus far had only been sheet lightning ; the Buffalo conven- 
tion sought to make it a thunderbolt. It. is true the Liberty 
party, a political organization, had been in existence since 
1840, when it cast seven thousand votes for James G. Birney, 
a former slaveholder, but who in obedience to an enlightened 
conscience, had nobly emancipated his slaves, and was now 
devoting his time and talents to the overthrow of slavery. It 
is true that this little party of brave men had increased their 
numbers at one time to sixty thousand voters. It, however, 


had now apparently reached its culminating point, and was no 
longer able to attract to itself and combine all the available 
elements at the North, capable of being marshaled against the 
growing and aggressive measures and aims of the slave power. 
There were many in the old Whig party known as Conscience- 
Whigs, and in the Democratic party known as Barnburners 
and Free Democrats, who were anti-slavery in sentiment and 
utterly opposed to the extension of the slave system to territory 
hitherto uncursed by its presence, but who nevertheless were 
not willing to join the Liberty party. It was held to be defi- 
cient in numbers and wanting in prestige. Its fate was the 
fate of all pioneers. The work it had been required to per- 
form had exposed it to assaults from all sides, and it wore on 
its front the ugly marks of conflict. It was unpopular for its 
very fidelity to the cause of liberty and justice. No wonder 
that some of its members, such as Gerrit Smith, William 
Goodell, Beriah Green, and Julius Lemoyne refused to quit 
the old for the new. They felt that the Free-Soil party was a 
step backward, a lowering of the standard, that the people 
should come to them, not they to the people. The party which 
had been good enough for them ought to be good enough 
for all others. Events, however, over-ruled this reasoning. 
The conviction became general that the time had come for a 
new organization, which should embrace all who were in any 
manner opposed to slavery and the slave power, and this 
Buffalo Free-Soil convention was the result of that conviction. 
It is easy to say that this or that measure would have been 
wiser and better than the one adopted. But any measure is 
vindicated by its necessity and its results. It was impossible 
for the mountain to go to Mahomet, or for the Free-Soil ele- 
ment to go to the old Liberty party, so the latter went to the 
former. " All is well that ends well." This Buffalo conven- 
tion of free-soilers, however low was their standard, did lay 
the foundation of a grand superstructure. It was a powerful 
link in the chain of events by which the slave system has been 
abolished, the slave emancipated, and the country saved from 


It is nothing against the actors in this new movement that 
they did not see the end from the beginning ; that they did not 
at first take the higli ground that further on in the conflict 
their successors felt themselves called upon to take, or that 
their free-soil party, like the old liberty party, was ultimately 
required to step aside and make room for the great Republican 
party. In all this and more it illustrates the experience of 
reform in all ages, and conforms to the laws of human progress 
— Measures change, principles never. 

I was not the only colored man well known to the country 
who was present at this convention. Samuel Ringold Ward, 
Henry Highland Garnet, Charles L. Remond, and Henry Bibb, 
were there and made speeches which were received with sur- 
prise and gratification by the thousands there assembled. As 
a colored man I felt greatly encouraged and strengthened for 
my cause while listening to these men — in the presence of the 
ablest men of the Caucasian race. Mr. Ward especially 
attracted attention at that convention. As an orator and 
thinker he was vastly superior, I thought, to any of us, and 
being perfectly black and of unmixed African descent, the 
splendors of his intellect went directly to the glory of his 
race. In depth of thought, fluency of speech, readiness of wit, 
logical exactness, and general intelligence, Samuel R. Ward 
has left no successor among the colored men amongst us, and 
it was a sad day for our cause when he was laid low in the 
soil of a foreign country. 

After the Free Soil party, with " Free Soil," " Free Labor," 
" Free States," " Free Speech," and " Free Men," on its ban- 
ner, had defeated the almost permanently victorious Democratic 
party under the leadership of so able and popular a standard- 
bearer as General Lewis Cass, Mr. Calhoun and other south- 
ern statesmen were more than ever alarmed at the rapid 
increase of anti-slavery feeling in the North, and devoted their 
energies more and more to the work of devising means 
to stay the torrents and tie up the storm. They were not 
ignorant of whereunto this sentiment would grow if unsub- 


jected and unextinguished. Hence they became fierce and 
furious in debate, and more extravagant than ever in their 
demands for additional safeguards for their system of robbery 
and murder. Assuming that the Constitution guaranteed their 
rights of property in their fellowmen, they held it to be in 
open violation of the Constitution for any American citizen in 
any part of the United States to speak, write, or act against 
this right. But this shallow logic they plainly saw could do 
them no good unless they could obtain further safeguards for 
slavery. In order to effect this, the idea of so changing the 
Constitution was suggested, that there should be two instead 
of one President of the United States — one from the North 
and the other from the South — and that no measure should 
become a law without the assent of both. But this device 
was so utterly impracticable that it soon dropped out of sight, 
and it is mentioned here only to show the desperation of 
slaveholders to prop up their system of barbarism against 
which the sentiment of the North was being directed with 
destructive skill and effect. They clamored for more slave 
States, more power in the Senate and House of Representa- 
tives, and insisted upon the suppression of free speech. At 
the end of two years, in 1850, when Clay and Calhoun, two of 
the ablest leaders the South ever had, were still in the Senate, 
we had an attempt at a settlement of differences between the 
North and South which our legislators meant to be final. 
What those measures were I need not here enumerate except 
to say that chief among them was the Fugitive Slave Bill, 
framed by James M. Mason of Virginia, and supported by 
Daniel Webster of Massachusetts ; a bill undoubtedly more 
designed to involve the North in complicity with slavery and 
deaden its moral sentiment than to procure the return of 
fugitives to their so-called owners. For a time this design 
did not altogether fail. Letters, speeches, and pamphlets 
literally rained down upon the people of the North, reminding 
them of their constitutional duty to hunt down and return to 
bondage runaway slaves. In this the preachers were not much 


behind the press and the politicians, especially that class of 
preachers known as Doctors of Divinity. A long list of these 
came forward with their Bibles to show that neither Christ 
nor his holy apostles objected to returning fugitives to slavery. 
Now that that evil day is past a sight of those sermons would, I 
doubt not, bring the red blush of shame to the cheeks of many. 

Living as I then did in Rochester, on the border of Canada, 
I was compelled to see the terribly distressing effects of this 
cruel enactment. Fugitive slaves, who had lived for many 
years safely and securely in Western New York and else- 
where, some of whom had by industry and economy saved 
money and bought little homes for themselves and their child- 
ren, were suddenly alarmed and compelled to flee to Canada 
for safety as from an enemy's land — a doomed city — and take 
up a dismal march to a new abode, empty-handed, among 
strangers. My old friend Ward, of whom I have just now 
spoken, found it necessary to give up the contest and flee to 
Canada, and thousands followed his example. Bishop Daniel 
A. Payne, of the African Methodist Episcopal church, came to 
me about this time to consult me as to whether it was best to 
stand our ground or flee to Canada. When I told him I could 
not desert my post until I saw I could not hold it, adding that I 
did not wish to leave while Garnet and Ward remained, 
" Why," said he, " Ward, Ward, he is already gone. I saw 
him crossing from Detroit to Windsor." I asked him if he 
was going to stay, and he answered, " Yes ; we are whipped, we 
are whipped ! and we might as well retreat in order." This 
was indeed a stunning blow. This man had power to do more 
to defeat this inhuman enactment than any other colored man 
in the land, for no other could bring such brain power to 
bear against it. I felt like a beseiged city at news that its 
defenders had fallen at its gates. 

The hardships imposed by this atrocious and shameless law 
were cruel and shocking, and yet only a few of all the fugi- 
tives of the Northern States were returned to slavery under 
its infamously wicked provisions. As a means of recapturing 


their runaway property in human flesh the law was an utter 
failure. Its efficiency was destroyed by its enormity. Its 
chief effect was to produce alarm and terror among the class 
subject to its operation, and this it did most effectually and 
distressingly. Even colored people who had been free all 
their lives felt themselves very insecure in their freedom, for 
under this law the oaths of any two villains were sufficient to 
consign a free man to slavery for life. While the law was a 
terror to the free, it was a still greater terror to the escaped 
bondman. To him there was no peace. Asleep or awake, 
at work or at rest, in church or market, he was liable to 
surprise and capture. By the law the judge got ten dollars a 
head for all he could consign to slavery, and only five dollars 
apeice for any which he might adjudge free. Although I 
was now myself free, I was not without apprehension. My 
purchase was of doubtful validity, having been bought when 
out of the possession of my owner and when he must take 
what was given or take nothing. It was a question whether 
my claimant could be estopped by such a sale from asserting 
certain or supposable equitable rights in my body and soul. 
From rumors that reached me my house was guarded by my 
friends several nights, when kidnappers, had they come, would 
have got anything but a cool reception, for there would have 
been "blows to take as well as blows to give." Happily this 
reign of terror did not continue long. Despite the efforts of 
Daniel Webster and Millard Fillmore and our Doctors of 
Divinity, the law fell rapidly into disrepute. The rescue of 
Shadrack resulting in the death of one of the kidnappers, in 
Boston, the cases of Simms and Anthony Burns, in the same 
place, created the deepest feeling against the law and its up- 
holders. But the thing which more than all else destroyed 
the fugitive slave law was the resistance made to it by the 
fugitives themselves. A decided check was given to the exe- 
cution of the law at Christiana, Penn., where three colored 
men, being pursued by Mr. Gorsuch and his son, slew the 
father, wounded the son, and drove away the officers, and 


mnde their escape to my house in Rochester. The work of 
trotting these men safely into Canada was a delicate one. 
They were not only fugitives from slavery but charged with 
murder, and officers were in pursuit of them. There was no 
time for delay. I could not look upon them as murderers. To 
me, they were heroic defenders of the just rights of man against 
manstealers and murderers. So I fed them, and sheltered 
them in my house. Had they been pursued then and there, 
my home would have been stained with blood, for these men 
who had already tasted blood were well armed and prepared 
to sell their lives at any expense to the lives and limbs of 
their probable assailants. What they had already done at 
Christiana and the cool determination which showed very 
plainly especially in Parker, (for that was the name of the 
leader,) left no doubt on my mind that their courage was gen- 
uine and that their deeds would equal their words. The situ- 
ation was critical and dangerous. The telegraph had that day 
announced their deeds at Christiana, their escape, and that 
the mountains of Pennsylvania were being searched for the 
murderers. These men had reached me simultaneously with 
this news in the New York papers. Immediately after the 
occurrence at Christiana, they, instead of going into the moun- 
tains, were placed on a train which brought them to Roches- 
ter. They were thus almost in advance of the lightning, and 
much in advance of probable pursuit, unless the telegraph 
had raised agents already here. The hours they spent at my 
house were therefore hours of anxiety as well as activity. I 
dispatched my friend Miss Julia Griffiths to the landing three 
miles away on the Genesee River to ascertain if a steamer 
would leave that night for any port in Canada, and remained 
at home myself to guard my tired, dust-covered, and sleeping 
guests, for they had been harassed and traveling for two days 
and nights, and needed rest. Happily for us the suspense was 
not long, for it turned out, that that very night a steamer was 
to leave for Toronto, Canada. 

Tliis fact, however, did not end my anxiety. There was 


danger that "between my house and the landing or at the 
landing itself we might meet with trouble. Indeed the land- 
ing was the place where trouble was likely to occur if at all. 
As patiently as I could, I waited for the shades of night to 
come on, and then put the men in my "Democrat car- 
riage," and started for the landing on the Genesee. It was an 
exciting ride, and somewhat speedy withal. We reached the 
boat at least fifteen minutes before the time of its departure, 
and that without remark or molestation. But those fifteen 
minutes seemed much longer than usual. I remained on 
board till the order to haul in the gang-way was given ; I 
shook hands with my friends, received from Parker the re- 
volver that fell from the hand of Gorsuch when he died, 
presented now as a token of gratitude and a memento of the 
battle for Liberty at Christiana, and I returned to my home 
with a sense of relief which I cannot stop here to describe. 
This affair, at Christiana, and the Jerry Rescue at Syracuse, 
inflicted fatal wounds on the fugitive slave bill. It became 
thereafter almost £ dead letter, for slaveholders found that 
not only did it fail to put them in possession of their slaves, 
but that the attempt to enforce it brought odium upon them- 
selves and weakened the slave system. 

In the midst of these fugitive slave troubles came the book 
known as Uncle Tom's Cabin, a work of marvelous depth and 
power. Nothing could have better suited the moral and 
humane requirements of the hour. Its effect was amazing, 
instantaneous, and universal. No book on the subject of slav- 
ery had so generally and favorably touched the American 
heart. It combined all the power and pathos of preceding 
publications of the kind, and was hailed by many as an in- 
spired production. Mrs. Stowe at once became an object of 
interest and admiration. She had made fortune and fame at 
home, and had awakened a deep interest abroad. Eminent 
persons in England roused to anti-slavery enthusiasm by her 
"Uncle Tom's Cabin," invited her to visit that country, and 
promised to give her a testimonial. Mrs. Stowe accepted the 


invitation and the proffered testimonial. Before sailing for 
England, however, she invited me from Rochester, N. Y., to 
spend a day at her house in Andover, Mass. Delighted with 
an opportunity to become personally acquainted with the gift- 
ed authoress, I lost no time in making my way to Andover. 
I was received at her home with genuine cordiality. There 
was no contradiction between the author and her book. Mrs. 
Stowe appeared in conversation equally as well as she ap- 
peared in her writing. She made to me a nice little speech 
in announcing her object in sending for me. " I have invited 
you here," she said, " because I wish to confer with you as to 
what can be done for the free colored people of the country. I 
am going to England and expect to have a considerable sum of 
money placed in my hands, and I intend to use it in some 
way, for the permanent improvement of the free colored peo- 
ple, and especially for that class which has become free by their 
own exertions. In what way I can do this most successfully 
is the subject I wish to talk with you about. In any event I 
desire to have some monument rise after Uncle Tom's Cabin, 
which shall show that it produced more than a transient in- 
fluence." She said several plans had been suggested, among 
others an educational institution pure and simple, but that 
she thought favorably of the establishment of an industrial 
school ; and she desired me to express my views as to what I 
thought would be the best plan to help the free colored people. 
I was not slow to tell Mrs. Stowe all I knew and had thought 
on the subject. As to a purely educational institution, I 
agreed with her that it did not meet our necessities. I argued 
against expending money in that way. I was also opposed to 
an ordinary industrial school where pupils should merely earn 
the means of obtaining an education in books. There were 
such schools, already. What I thought of as best was rather 
a series of workshops, where colored people could learn some 
of the handicrafts, learn to work in iron, wood, and leather, 
and where a plain English education could also be taught. I 
argued that the want of money was the root of all evil to the 


colored people. They were shut out from all lucrative em- 
ployments and compelled to be merely barbers, waiters, coach- 
men and the like at wages so low that they could lay up little 
or nothing. Their poverty kept them ignorant and their ig- 
norance kept them degraded. We needed more to learn how 
to make a good living than to learn Latin and Greek. 
After listening to me at considerable length, she was good 
enough to tell me that she favored my views, and would de- 
vote the money she expected to receive abroad to meeting the 
want I had described as the most important ; by establishing 
an institution in which colored youth should learn trades as 
well as to read, write, and count. When about to leave Ando- 
ver, Mrs. Stowe asked me to put my views on the subject in 
the form of a letter, so that she could take it to England with 
her and show it to her friends there, that they might see to 
what their contributions were to be devoted. I acceded to 
her request and wrote her the following letter for the purpose 


Rochester, March 8, 1853. 
My Dear Mrs. Stowe: 

You kindly informed me, when at your house a fortnight ago, that you 
designed to do something which should permanently contribute to the im- 
provement and elevation of the free colored people in the United States. 
You especially exprc g^ed an interest in such of this class as had become free 
by their own exertions, and desired most of all to be of service to them. 
In what manner, and by what means you can assist this class most success- 
fully, is the subject upon which you have done me the honor to ask my 
opinion. ... I assert then that poverty, ignorance, and degradation are 
the combined evils ; or in other words, these constitute the social disease of 
the free colored people of the United States. 

To deliver them from this triple malady, is to improve and elevate them, 
by which I mean simply to put them on an equal footing with their white 
fellow countrymen in the sacred right to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of 
happiness." I am for no fancied or artificial elevation, but only ask fair 
play. How shall this be obtained? I answer, first, not by establishing for 
our use high schools and colleges. Such institutions are, in my judgment, 
beyond our immediate occasions and are not adapted to our present most 
pressing wants. High schools and colleges are excellent institutions, and 
will in due season' be greatly subservient to our progress; but they are the 
result, as well as they are the demand of a point of progress, which we as 
a people have not yet attained. Accustomed as we have been, to the rougher 


and harder modes of living, and of gaining a livelihood, we cannot, and we 
•\ight not to hope that in a single leap from our low condition, we can reach 
that of Ministers, Lawyers, Doctors, Editors, Merchants, etc. These will 
doubtless be attained by us; but this will only be, when we have patiently 
and laboriously, and I may add successfully, mastered and passed through 
the intermediate gradations of agriculture and the mechanic arts. Besides, 
there are (and perhaps this is a better reason for my view of the case) nu- 
merous institutions of learning in this country, already thrown open to 
colored youth. To my thinking, there are quite as many facilities now af- 
forded to the colored people, as they can spare the time, from the sterner, 
duties of life, to avail themselves of. In their present condition of poverty, 
they cannot spare their sons and daughters two or three years at boarding- 
schools or colleges, to say nothing of finding the means to sustain them 
while at such institutions. I take it, therefore, that we are well provided 
for in this respect; and that it may be fairly inferred from the fact, that the 
facilities for our education, so far as schools and colleges in the Free States 
are concerned, will increase quite in proportion with our future wants. 
Colleges have been open to colored youth in this country during the last 
dozen years. Yet few comparatively, have acquired a classical education; 
and even this few have found themselves educated far above a living con- 
dition, there being no methods by which they could turn their learning to 
account. Several of this latter class have entered the ministry; but you 
need not be told that an educated people is needed to sustain an educated 
ministry. There must be a certain amount of cultivation among the people, 
to sustain such a ministry. At present we have not that cultivation amongst 
us ; and therefore, we value in the preacher, strong lungs, rather than high 
learning. I do not say, that educated ministers are not needed amongst us, 
far from it! I wish there were more of them! but to increase their number, 
is not the largest benefit you can bestow upon us. 

We have two or three colored lawyers in this country; and I rejoice in the 
fact ; for it affords very gratifying evidence of our progress. Yet it must 
be confessed, that in point of success, our lawyers are as great failures as 
our ministers. White people will not employ them to the obvious embar- 
rassment of their causes, and the blacks, taking their cue from the whites, 
have not sufficient confidence in their abilities to employ them. Hence ed- 
ucated colored men, among the colored people, are at a very great discount. 
It would seem that education and emigration go together with us, for as 
soon as a man rises amongst us, capable, by his genius and learning, to do 
us great service, just so soon he finds that he can serve himself better by 
going elsewhere. In proof of this, I might instance the Russwurms, the 
Garnetts, the Wards, the Crummells and others, all men of superior ability 
and attainments, and capable of removing mountains of prejudice against 
their race, by their simple presence in the country; but these gentlemen, 
finding themselves embarrassed here by the peculiar disadvantages to which 
I have referred, disadvantages in part growing out of their education, be- 


!ng repelled by ignorance on the one hand, and prejudice on the other, and 
having no taste to continue a contest against such odds, they have sought 
more congenial climes, where they can live more peaceable and quiet lives. 
I regret their election, but I cannot blame them ; for with an equal amount 
of education and the hard lot which was theirs, I might follow their ex- 
ample. . . . 

There is little reason to hope that any considerable number of the free 
colored people will ever be induced to leave this country, even if such a thing 
were desirable. The black man (unlike the Indian) loves civilization. He 
does not make very great progress in civilization himself but he likes to be 
in the midst of it, and prefers to share its most galling evils, to encountering 
barbarism. Then the love of country, the dread of isolation, the lack of 
adventurous spirit, and the thought of seeming to desert their "brethren in 
bonds," are a powerful check upon all schemes of colonization, which look 
to the removal of the colored people, without the slaves. The truth is, dear 
madam, we are here, and here we are likely to remain. Individuals emigrate 
— nations never. We have grown up with this republic, and I see nothing 
in her character, or even in the character of the American people, as yet 
which compels the belief that we must leave the United States. If then, we 
are to remain here the question for the wise and good is precisely that you 
have submitted to me — namely: What can be done to improve the condition 
of the free people of color in the United States? The plan which I humbly 
submit in answer to this inquiry (and in the hope that it may find favor with 
you, and with the many friends of humanity who honor, love, and cooperate 
with you) is the establishment in Rochester, N. Y., or in some other part of 
the United States equally favorable to such an enterprise, of an Industrial 
College in which shall be taught several important branches of the mechanic 
arts. This college to be open to colored youth. I will pass over the details 

of such an institution as I propose Never having had a day's 

schooling in all my life I may not be expected to map out the details of a 
plan so comprehensive as that involved in the idea of a college. I repeat, 
then, I leave the organization and administration to the superior wisdom of 
yourself and the friends who second your noble efforts. The argument in 
favor of an Industrial College (a college to be conducted by the best men, 
and the best workmen which the mechanic arts can afford ; a college where 
colored youth can be instructed to use their hands, as well as their heads ; 
where they can be put in possession of the means of getting a living whether 
their lot in after life maybe cast among civilized or uncivilized men; whether 
they choose to stay here, or prefer to return to the land of their fathers) is 
briefly this : Prejudice against the free colored people in the United States 
has shown itself nowhere so invincible as among mechanics. The farmer 
and the professional man cherish no feeling so bitter as that cherished by 
these. The latter would starve us out of the country entirely. At this 
moment I can more easily get my son into a lawyer's office to study law 
than I can into a blacksmith's shop to blow the bellows and to wield tha 


sledge-hammer. Denied the means of learning useful trades we are pressed 
into the narrowest limits to obtain a livelihood. In times past we have 
been the hewers of wood and drawers of water for American society, and 
we once enjoyed a monopoly in menial employments, but this is so no longer. 
Even these employments are rapidly passing away out of our hands. The 
fact is (every day begins with the lesson, and ends with the lesson) that col- 
ored men must learn trades; must find new employments; new modes of 
usefulness to society, or that they must decay under the pressing wants to 
which their condition is rapidly bringing them. 

We must become mechanics ; we must build as well as live in houses ; we 
must make as well as use furniture; we must construct bridges as well as 
pass over them, before we can properly live or be respected by our fellow men. 
We need mechanics as well as ministers. We need workers in iron, clay, 
and leather. We have orators, authors, and other professional men, but 
these reach only a certain class, and get respect for our race in certain 
select circles. To live here as we ought we must fasten ourselves to our 
countrymen through their every day cardinal wants. We must not only be 
able to black boots, but to make them. At present we are unknown in the 
northern States as mechanics. We give no proof of genius or skill at the 
county, State, or national fairs. We are unknown at any of the great exhibi- 
tions of the industry of our fellow-citizens, and being unknown we are uncon- 

The fact that we make no show of our ability is held conclusive of our 
inability to make any, hence all the indifference and contempt with which 
incapacity is regarded fall upon us, and that too when we have had no means 
of disproving the infamous opinion of our natural inferiority. I have dur- 
ing the last dozen years denied before the Americans that we are an inferior 
race ; but this has been done by arguments based upon admitted principles 
rather than by tne presentation of facts. Now firmly believing, as I do, 
that there are skill, invention, power, industry, and real mechanical genius, 
among the colored people, which will bear favorable testimony for them, 
and which only need the means to develop them, I am decidedly in favor of 
the establishment of such a college as I have mentioned. The benefits of 
such an institution would not be confined to the Northern States, nor to the 
free colored people. They would extend over the whole Union. The slave 
not less than the freeman would be benefited by such an institution. It 
must be confessed that the most powerful argument now used by the south- 
ern slaveholder, and the one most soothing to his conscience, is that derived 
from the low condition of the free colored people of the north. I have long 
felt that too little attention has been given by our truest friends in this 
country to removing this stumbling block out of the way of the slave's libera- 

The most telling, the most killing refutation of slavery, is the presentation 
of an industrious, enterprising, thrifty, and intelligent free black population. 
Such a population I believe would rise in the Northern States under the fos- 
tering care of such a college as that supposed. 


To show that we are capable of becoming mechanics I might adduce any 
amount of testimony; but, dear madam, I need not ring the changes on such 
a proposition. There is no question in the mind of any unprejudiced per- 
son that the Negro is capable of making a good mechanic. Indeed, even 
those who cherish the bitterest feelings towards us have admitted that the 
apprehension that negroes might be employed in their stead, dictated the policy 
of excluding them from trades altogether. But I will not dwell upon this point 
as I fear I have already trespassed too long upon your precious time, and 
written more than I ought to expect you to read. Allow me to say in con- 
clusion, that I believe every intelligent colored man in America will approve 
and rejoice at the establishment of some such institution as that now sug- 
gested. There are many respectable colored men, fathers of large families, 
having boys nearly grown up, whose minds are tossed by day and by night 
with the anxious inquiry, what shall I do with my boys? Such an institution 
would meet the wants of such persons. Then, too, the establishment of 
such an institution would be in character with the eminently practical 
philanthropy of your trans- Atlantic friends. America could scarcely object 
to it as an attempt to agitate the public mind on the subject of slavery, or to 
dissolve the Union. It could not be tortured into a cause for hard words by 
the American people, but the noble and good of all classes would see in the 
effort an excellent motive, a benevolent object, temperately, wisely, and 
practically manifested. 

Wishing you, dear madam, renewed health, a pleasant passage and safe 

return to your native land, 

I am most truly, your grateful friend, 

Frederick Douglass. 
Mrs. H. B. Stowe. 

I was not only requested to write the foregoing letter for 
the purpose indicated, but I was also asked, with admirable 
foresight, to see and ascertain, as far as possible, the views of 
the free colored people themselves in respect to the proposed 
measure for their benefit. This I was able to do in July, 1853, 
at the largest and most enlightened colored convention that, 
up to that time, had ever assembled in this country. This 
convention warmly approved the plan of a manual labor 
school, as already described, and expressed high appreciation 
of the wisdom and benevolence of Mrs. Stowe. This conven- 
tion was held in Rochester, N. Y., and will long be remem- 
bered there for the surprise and gratification it caused our 
friends in that city. They were not looking for such exhibi- 
tion of enlightened zeal and ability as were there displayed 


in speeches, addresses, and resolutions ; and in the conduct of 
the business for which it had assembled. Its proceedings 
attracted wide-spread attention at home and abroad. 

While Mrs. Stowe was abroad, she was attacked by the 
pro-slavery press of our country so persistently and vigorously, 
for receiving money for her own private use, that the Rev. 
Henry Ward Beecher felt called upon to notice and reply to 
them in the columns of the New York Independent, of which 
he was then the editor. He denied that Mrs. Stowe was 
gathering British gold for herself, and referred her assailants 
to me, if they would learn what she intended to do with the 
money. In answer to her maligners, I denounced their accusa- 
tions as groundless, and assured the public through the col- 
umns of my paper, that the testimonial then being raised in 
England by Mrs. Stowe, would be sacredly devtted to the 
establishment of an industrial school for colored youth. This 
announcement was circulated by other journals, and the 
attacks ceased. Nobody could well object to such application of 
money, received from any source, at home or abroad. After 
her return to this country, I called again on Mrs. Stowe, and 
was much disappointed to learn from her that she had recon- 
sidered her plan for the industrial school. I have never been 
able to see any force in the reasons for this change. It is 
enough, however, to say that they were sufficient for her, and 
that she no doubt acted conscientiously, though her change of 
purpose was a great disappointment, and placed me in an 
awkward position before the colored people of this country, 
as well as to friends abroad, to whom I had given assurances 
that the money would be appropriated in the manner I have 



Increased demands of slavery — War in Kansas — John Brown's raid — His 
capture and execution — My escape to England from United States 

NOTWITHSTANDING the natural tendency of the 
human mind to weary of an old story, and to turn away 
from chronic abuses for which it sees no remedy, the anti- 
slavery agitation for thirty long years — from 1830 to 1860 — - 
was sustained with ever increasing intensity and power. This 
was not entirely due to the extraordinary zeal and ability of . 
the anti-slavery agitators themselves ; for with all their ad- 
mitted ardor and eloquence, they could have done very little 
without the aid rendered them, unwittingly, by the aggressive 
character of slavery itself. It was in the nature of the sys- 
tem never to rest in obscurity, although that condition was in 
a high degree essential to its security. It was forever forcing 
itself into prominence. Unconscious, apparently, of its own 
deformity, it omitted no occasion for inviting disgust by seek- 
ing approval and admiration. It was noisiest when it should have 
been most silent and unobtrusive. One of its defenders, when 
asked what would satisfy him as a slaveholder, said " he never 
would be satisfied until he could call the roll of his slaves in 
the shadow of Bunker Hill monument." Every effort made 
to put down agitation only served to impart to it new strength 
and vigor. Of this class was the " gag rule," attempted and 
partially enforced in Congress — the attempted suppression of 
the right of petition — the mobocratic demonstrations against 
the exercise of free speech — the display of pistols, bludgeons, 
and plantation manners in the Congress of the nation — the. 
demand, shamelessly made by our government upon England, 



for the return of slaves who had won their liberty by their 
valor on the high seas — the bill for the recapture of runaway 
slaves — the annexation of Texas for the avowed purpose of 
increasing the number of slave States, and thus increasing the 
power of slavery in the union — the war with Mexico — the 
filibustering expeditions against Cuba and Central America 
— the cold-blooded decision of Chief Justice Taney in the 
Dred Scott case, wherein he states, as it were, a historical 
fact, that " negroes are deemed to have no rights which white 
men are bound to respect" — the perfidious repeal of the Mis- 
souri compromise, when all its advantages to the South had 
been gained and appropriated, and when nothing had been 
gained by the North — the armed and bloody attempt to force 
slavery upon the virgin soil of Kansas — the efforts of both of 
the great political parties to drive from place and power every 
man suspected of ideas and principles hostile to slavery — the 
rude attacks made upon Giddings, Hale, Chase, Wilson, Wm. 
H. Seward, and Charles Sumner — the effort to degrade these 
brave men, and drive them from positions of prominence — 
the summary manner in which Virginia hanged John Brown ; 
— in a word, whatever was done or attempted, with a view to 
the support and security of slavery, only served as fuel to the 
fire, and heated the furnance of agitation to a higher degree 
than any before attained. This was true up to the moment 
when the nation found it necessary to gird on the sword for 
the salvation of the country and the destruction of slavery. 
At no time during all the ten years preceding the war, was 
the public mind at rest. Mr. Clay's compromise measures in 
1850, whereby all the troubles of the country about slavery 
were to be " in the deep bosom of the ocean buried, ,, was hardly 
dry on the pages of the statute book before the whole land 
was rocked with rumored agitation, and for one, I did my best 
by pen and voice, and by ceaseless activity to keep it alive and 
vigorous. Later on, in 1854, we had the Missouri comprom- 
ise, which removed the only grand legal barrier against the 
spread of slavery over all the territory of the United States. 

ELECTION OF 1856. 331 

From this time there was no pause, no repose. Every body, 
however dull, could see that this was a phase of the slavery 
question which was not to be slighted or ignored. The peo- 
ple of the North had been accustomed to ask, in a tone of 
cruel indifference, " What have we to do with slavery ? " and 
now no labored speech was required in answer. Slaveholding 
aggression settled this question for us. The presence of slav- 
ery in a territory would certainly exclude the sons and 
daughters of the free States more effectually than statutes or 
yellow fever. Those who cared nothing for the slave, and 
were willing to tolerate slavery inside the slave States, were 
nevertheless not quite prepared to find themselves and their 
children excluded from the common inheritance of the nation. 
It is not surprising therefore, that the public mind of the 
North was easily kept intensely alive on this subject, nor that 
in 1856 an alarming expression of feeling on this point was 
seen in the large vote given for John C. Fremont and William L. 
Dayton for President and Vice-President of the United States. 
Until this last uprising of the North against the slave power 
the anti-slavery movement was largely retained in the hands 
of the original abolitionists, whose most prominent leaders 
have already been mentioned elsewhere in this volume. After 
1856 a mightier arm and a more numerous host was raised 
against it, the agitation becoming broader and deeper. The 
times at this point illustrated the principle of tension and com- 
pression, action and reaction. The more open, flagrant, and 
impudent the slave power, the more firmly it was confronted 
by the rising anti-slavery spirit of the North. No one act did 
more to rouse the north to a comprehension of the infernal 
and barbarous spirit of slavery and its determination to " rule 
or ruin," than the cowardly and brutal assault made in the 
American Senate upon Charles Sumner, by Preston S. Brooks, 
a member of Congress from South Carolina. Shocking and 
scandalous as was this attack, the spirit in which the deed was 
received and commended by the community, was still more 
disgraceful. Southern ladies even applauded the armed bully 


for his murderous assault upon an unarmed northern Senator, 
because of words spoken in debate ! This more than all else 
told the thoughtful people of the North the kind of civilization 
to which they were linked, and how plainly it foreshadowed a 
conflict on a larger scale. 

As a measure of agitation, the repeal of the Missouri Compro- 
mise alluded to, was perhaps the most effective. It was that 
which brought Abraham Lincoln into prominence, and into 
conflict with Stephen A. Douglas (who was the author of that 
measure) and compelled the Western States to take a deeper 
interest than they ever had done before in the whole question. 
Pregnant words were now spoken on the side of freedom, words 
which went straight to tke heart of the nation. It was Mr. 
Lincoln who told the American people at this crisis that the 
u Union could not long endure half, slave and half free ; that 
they must be all one or the other, and that the public mind 
could find no resting place but in the belief in the ultimate 
extinction of slavery.'' These were not the words of an aboli- 
tionist — branded a fanatic, and carried away by an enthusiastic 
devotion to the Negro — but the calm, cool, deliberate utter- 
ance of a statesman, comprehensive enough to take in the 
welfare of the whole country. No wonder that the friends of 
freedom saw in this plain man of Illinois the proper standard- 
bearer of all the moral and political forces which could be 
united and wielded against the slave power. In a few simple 
words he had embodied the thought of the loyal nation, and 
indicated the character fit to lead and guide the country amid 
perils present and to come. 

The South was not far behind the North in recognizing 
Abraham Lincoln as the natural leader of the rising political 
sentiment of the country against slavery, and it was equally 
quick in its efforts to counteract and destroy his influence. 
Its papers teemed with the bitterest invectives against the 
" backwoodsman of Illinois," the " flat-boatman," the " rail- 
splitter," the " third-rate lawyer," and much else and worse. 

Preceding the repeal of the Missouri Compromise I gave, at 


the anniversary of the American Anti-Slavery Society in New 
York, the following picture of the state of the anti-slavery 
conflict as it then existed : 

" It is evident that there is in this country a purely slavery party, a party 
which exists for no other earthly purpose but to promote the interest of 
slavery. It is known by no particular name, and has assumed no definite 
shape, but its branches reach far and wide in church and state. This shape- 
less and nameless party is not intangible in other and more important 
respects. It has a fixed, definite, and comprehensive policy towards the 
whole free colored population of the United States. I understand that 
policy to comprehend: First, the complete suppression of all anti-slavery 
discussion; second, the expulsion of the entire free people of the United 
States; third, the nationalization of slavery; fourth, guarantees for the end- 
less perpetuation of slavery and its extension over Mexico and Central 
America. Sir, these objects are forcibly presented to us in the stern logic 
of passing events, and in all the facts that have been before us during the 
last three years. The country has been and is dividing on these grand issues. 
Old party ties are broken. Like is finding its like on both sides of these 
issues, and the great battle is at hand. For the present the best representa- 
tive of the slavery party is the Democratic party. Its great head for the 
present is President Pierce, whose boast it was before his election, that his 
whole life had been consistent with the interests of slavery — that he is above 
reproach on that score. In his inaugural address he reassures the South on 
this point, so there shall be no misapprehension. Well, the head of the slave 
power being in power it is natural that the pro-slavery elements should clus- 
ter around his administration, and that is rapidly being done. The stringent 
protectionist and the free-trader strike hands. The supporters of Fillmore 
are becoming the supporters of Pierce. Silver Gray Whigs shake-hands 
with Hunker Democrats, the former only differing from the latter in name. 
They are in fact of one heart and one mind, and the union is natural and 
perhaps inevitable. Pilate and Herod made friends. The key-stone to the 
arch of this grand union of forces of the slave party is the so-called 
Compromise of 1850. In that measure we have all the objects of our slave- 
holding policy specified. It is, sir, favorable to this view of the situation, 
that the whig party and the democratic party bent lower, sunk deeper, and 
strained harder in their conventions, preparatory to the late presidential 
election to meet the demands of slavery. Never did parties come before the 
northern people with propositions of such undisguised contempt for the 
moral sentiment and religious ideas of that people. They dared to ask them 
to unite with them in a war upon free speech, upon conscience, and to drive 
the Almighty presence from the councils of the nation. Resting their plat- 
forms upon the fugitive slave bill they have boldly asked this people for 
political power to execute its horrible and hell -black provisions. The history 
of that election reveals with great clearness, the extent to which slavery has 


"shot its leprous distillment " through the life blood of the nation. The 
party most thoroughly opposed to the cause of justice and humanity tri- 
umphed, while the party only suspected of a leaning toward those principles 
was overwhelmingly defeated, and some say annihilated. But here is a still 
more important fact, and still better discloses the designs of the slave power. 
It is a fact full of meaning, that no sooner did the democratic party come 
into power than a system of legislation was presented to all the legislatures 
of the Northern States designed to put those States in harmony with the 
fugitive slave law, and with the malignant spirit evinced by the national 
government towards the free colored inhabitants of the country. The whole 
movement on the part of the States bears unmistakable evidence of having 
one origin, of emanating from one head, and urged forward by one power. 
It was simultaneous, uniform, and general, and looked only to one end. It 
was intended to put thorns under feet already bleeding ; to crush a people 
already bowed down ; to enslave a people already but half free ; in a word, 
it was intended and well calculated to discourage, dishearten, and if possible 
to drive the whole free colored people out of the country. In looking at the 
black law then recently enacted in the State of Illinois one is struck dumb by 
its enormity. It would seem that the men who passed that law, had not only 
successfully banished from their minds all sense of justice, but all sense of 
shame as well; these law codes propose to sell the bodies and souls of the 
blacks to provide the means of intelligence and refinement for the whites; 
to rob every black stranger who ventures among them to increase their 
educational fund. 

"While this kind of legislation is going on in the States, a pro-slavery 
political board of health is being established at Washington. Senators 
Hale, Chase, and Sumner are robbed of their senatorial rights and dignity 
as representatives of sovereign States, because they have refused to be inoc- 
ulated with the pro-slavery virus of the times. Among the services which 
a senator is expected to perform, are many that can only be done efficiently 
as members of important committees, and the slave power in the Senate, in 
saying to these honorable senators, you shall not serve on the committees of 
this body, took the responsibility of insulting and robbing the States which 
has sent them there. It is an attempt at Washington to decide for the 
States who the States shall send to the Senate. Sir, it strikes me that this 
aggression on the part of the slave power did not meet at the hands of the 
proscribed and insulted senators the rebuke which we had a right to expect 
from them. It seems to me that a great opportunity was lost, that the great 
principle of senatorial equality was left undefended at a time when its vin- 
dication was sternly demanded. But it is not to the purpose of my present 
statement to criticize the conduct of friends. Much should be left to the 
discretion of anti-slavery men in Congress. Charges of recreancy should 
never be made but on the most sufficient grounds. For of all places in the 
world where an anti-slavery man needs the confidence and encouragement 
of his friends, I take Washington — the citadel of slavery — to be that place. 


" Let attention now be called to the social influences operating and co- 
operating with the slave power of the time, designed to promote all its 
malign objects. We see here the black man attacked in his most vital inter- 
ests: prejudice and hate are systematically excited against him. The wrath 
of other laborers is stirred up against him. The Irish, who, at home, readily 
sympathize with the oppressed everywhere, are instantly taught when they 
step upon our soil to hate and despise the negro. They are taught to 
believe that he eats the bread that belongs to them. The cruel lie is told 
them, that we deprive them of labor and receive the money which would 
otherwise make its way into their pockets. Sir, the Irish- American will 
find out his mistake one day. lie will find that in assuming our avocation, 
•he has also assumed our degradation. But for the present we are the suffer- 
ers. Our old employments by which we have been accustomed to gain a 
livelihood are gradually slipping from our hands : every hour sees us elbowed 
out of some employment to make room for some newly arrived emigrant 
from the Emerald Isle, whose hunger and color entitle him to special favor. 
These white men are becoming house-servants, cooks, stewards, waiters, 
and flunkies. For aught I see they adjust themselves to their stations with 
all proper humility. If they cannot rise to the dignity of white men, they 
show that they can fall to the degradation of black men. But now, sir, 
look once more! While the colored people are thus elbowed out of employ- 
ment; while a ceaseless enmity in the Irish is excited against us; while 
State after State enacts laws against us; while we are being hunted down 
like wild beasts; while we are oppressed with a sense of increasing inse- 
curity, the American Colonization Society, with hypocrisy written on its 
brow, comes to the front, awakens to new life, and vigorously presses its 
scheme for our expatriation upon the attenticn of the American people. 
Papers have been started in the North and the South to promote this long 
cherished object — to get rid of the negro, who is presumed to be a standing 
menace to slavery. Each of these papers is adapted to the latitude in 
which it is published, but each and all are united in calling upon the gov- 
ernment for appropriations to enable the Colonization Society to send us out 
of the country by steam. Evidently this society looks upon our extremity 
as their opportunity, and whenever the elements are stirred against us, they 
are stimulated to unusual activity. They do not deplore our misfortunes, 
but rather rejoice in them, since they prove that the two races cannot flour- 
ish on the same soil. But, sir, I must hasten. I have thus briefly given 
my view of one aspect of the present condition and future prospects of the 
colored people of the United States. And what I have said is far from 
encouraging to my afflicted people. I have seen the cloud gather upon the 
sable brows of some who hear me. I confess the case looks bad enough. 
Sir, I am not a hopeful man. I think I am apt to undercalculate the bene- 
fits of the future. Yet, sir, in this seemingly desperate case, I do not 
despair for my people. There is a bright side to almost every picture, and 
ours is no exception to the general rule. If the influences against us are 


strong, those for us are also strong. To the inquiry, will our enemies pre- 
vail in the execution of their designs — in my God, and in my soul, I believe 
they will not. Let us look at the first object sought for by the slavery party 
of the country, viz., the suppression of the anti-slavery discussion. They 
desire to suppress discussion on this subject, with a view to the peace of the 
slaveholder and the security of slavery. Now, sir, neither the principle nor 
the subordinate objects, here declared, can be at all gained by the slave 
power, and for this reason : it involves the proposition to padlock the lips 
of the whites, in order to secure the fetters on the limbs of the blacks. 
The right of speech, precious and priceless, cannot — will not — be surren- 
dered to slavery. Its suppression is asked for, as I have said, to give peace 
and security to slaveholders. Sir, that thing cannot be done. God has 
interposed an insuperable obstacle to any such result. " There can be no 
peace, saith my God, to the wicked. " Suppose it were possible to put down 
this discussion, what would it avail the guilty slaveholder, pillowed as he 
is upon the heaving bosoms of ruined souls? He could not have a peace- 
ful spirit. If every anti-slavery tongue in the nation were silent — every 
anti-slavery organization dissolved — every anti-slavery periodical, paper, 
pamphlet, book, or what not, searched out, burned to ashes, and their 
ashes given to the four winds of heaven, still, still the slaveholder could 
have no peace. In every pulsation of his heart, in every throb of his life, 
in every glance of his eye, in the breeze that soothes, and in the thunder 
that startles, would be waked up an accuser, whose cause is, ' thou art verily 
guilty concerning thy brother. ' " 

This is no fancy sketch of the times indicated. The situa- 
tion during all the administration of President Pierce was 
only less threatening and stormy than that under the admin- 
istration of James T3uchanan. One sowed, the other reaped. 
One was the wind, the other was the whirlwind. Intoxicated 
by their success in repealing the Missouri compromise — in 
divesting the native-born colored man of American citizen- 
ship — in harnessing both the Whig and Democratic parties to 
the car of slavery, and in holding continued possession of the 
national government, the propagandists of slavery threw off 
all disguises, abandoned all semblance of moderation, and 
very naturally and inevitably proceeded under Mr. Buchanan, 
to avail themselves of all the advantages of their victories. 
Having legislated out of existence the great national wall, 
erected in the better days of the republic, against the spread 
of slavery, and against the increase of its power — having 


blotted out all distinction, as they thought, between freedom 
and slavery in the law, theretofore, governing the Territories of 
the United States, and having left the whole question of the 
legislation or prohibition of slavery to be decided by the peo- 
ple of a Territory, the next thing in order was to fill up the 
Territory of Kansas — the one likely to be first organized — 
with a people friendly to slavery, and to keep out all such as 
were opposed to making that Territory a free State. Here 
was an open invitation to a fierce and bitter strife ; and the 
history of the times shows how promptly that invitation was 
accepted by both classes to which it was given, and the scenes 
of lawless violence and blood that followed. 

All advantages were at first on the side of those who were 
for making Kansas a slave State. The moral force of the 
repeal of the Missouri compromise was with them; the 
strength of the triumphant Democratic party was with them ; 
the power and patronage of the federal government was with 
them ; the various governors, sent out under the Territorial 
government, was with them ; and, above all, the proximity of 
the Territory to the slave State of Missouri favored them and 
all their designs. Those who opposed the making Kansas a 
slave State, for the most part were far away from the battle- 
ground, residing chiefly in New England, more than a thou- 
sand miles from the eastern border of the Territory, and their 
direct way of entering it was through a country violently hos- 
tile to them. With such odds against them, and only an idea 
— though a grand one — to support them, it will ever be a won- 
der that they succeeded in making Kansas a free State. It is 
not my purpose to write particularly of this or of any other 
phase of the conflict with slavery, but simply to indicate the 
nature of the struggle, and the successive steps, leading to 
the final result. The important point to me, as one desiring 
to see the slave power crippled, slavery limited and abolished, 
was the effect of this Kansas battle upon the moral sentiment 
of the North: how it made abolitionists before they them- 
selves became aware of it, and how it rekindled the zeal, stim- 


nlated the activity, and strengthened the faith of our old 
anti-slavery forces. " Draw on me for $1,000 per month while 
the conflict lasts," said the great-hearted Gcrrit Smith. George 
L. Stearns poured out his thousands, and anti-slavery men of 
smaller means were proportionally liberal. H. W. Beecher 
shouted the right word at the head of a mighty column; 
Sumner in the Senate spoke as no man had ever spoken there 
before. Lewis Tappan representing one class of the old oppo- 
nents of slavery, and William L. Garrison the other, lost sight 
of their former differences, and bent all their energies to the 
freedom of Kansas. But these and others were merely gen- 
erators of anti-slavery force. The men who went to Kansas 
with the purpose of making it a free State, were the heroes 
and martyrs. One of the leaders in this holy crusade for 
freedom, with whom I was brought into near relations, was 
John Brown, whose person, house, and purposes I have already 
described. This brave old man and his sons were amongst 
the first to hear and heed the trumpet of freedom calling 
them to battle. What they did and suffered, what they 
sought and gained, and by what means, are matters of history, 
and need not be repeated here. 

When it became evident, as it soon did, that the war for and 
against slavery in Kansas was not to be decided by the peace- 
ful means of words and ballots, but that swords and bullets 
were to be employed on both sides. Captain John Brown felt 
that now, after long years of waiting, his hour had come, and 
never did man meet the perilous requirements of any occasion 
more cheerfully, courageously, and disinterestedly than he. 
I met him often during this struggle, and saw deeper into his 
soul than when I met him in Springfield seven or eight years 
before, and all I saw of him gave me a more favorable 
impression of the man, and inspired me with a higher respect 
for his character. In his repeated visits to the East to obtain 
necessary arms and supplies, he often did me the honor of 
spending hours and days with me at Rochester. On more 
than one occasion I got up meetings and solicited aid to be 


used by him for the cause, and I may say without boasting 
that my efforts in this respect were not entirely fruitless. 
Deeply interested as " Ossawatamie Brown" was in Kansas he 
never lost sight of what he called his greater work — the libera- 
tion of all the slaves in the United States. But for the then 
present he saw his way to the great end through Kansas. It 
would be a grateful task to tell of his exploits in the border 
struggle, how he met persecution with persecution, war with 
war, strategy with strategy, assassination and house-burning 
with signal and terrible retaliation, till even the blood-thirsty 
propagandists of slavery were compelled to cry for quarter. 
The horrors wrought by his iron hand cannot be contemplated 
without a shudder, but it is the shudder which one feels at the 
execution of a murderer. The amputation of a limb is a 
severe trial to feeling, but necessity is a full justification of it 
to reason. To call out a murderer at midnight, and without 
note or warning, judge or jury, run him through with a 
sword, was a terrible remedy for a terrible malady. The 
question was not merely which class should prevail in Kansas, 
but whether free-state men should live there at all. The 
border ruffians from Missouri had openly declared their pur- 
pose not only to make Kansas a slave state, but that they 
would make it impossible for free-state men to live there. They 
burned their towns, burned their farm-houses, and by assassi- 
nation spread terror among them until many of the free-state 
settlers were compelled to escape for their lives. John Brown 
was therefore the logical result of slaveholding persecutions. 
Until the lives of tyrants and murderers shall become more 
precious in the sight of men than justice and liberty, John 
Brown will need no defender. In dealing with the ferocious 
enemies of the free-state cause in Kansas he not only showed 
boundless courage but eminent military skill. With men so 
few and odds against him so great, few captains ever surpassed 
him in achievements, some of which seem too disproportionate 
for belief, and yet no voice has yet called them in question. 
With only eight men he met, fought, whipped, and captured 


Henry Clay Pate with twenty-five well-armed and well- 
mounted men. In this battle he selected his ground so 
wisely, handled his men so skillfully, and attacked his enemies 
so vigorously, that they could neither run nor fight, and were 
therefore compelled to surrender to a force less than one-third 
their own. With just thirty men on another memorable 
occasion he met and vanquished 400 Missourians under the 
command of General Read. These men had come into the 
territory under an oath never to return to their homes in 
Missouri till they had stamped out the last vestige of the free- 
state spirit in Kansas. But a brush with old Brown instantly 
took this high conceit out of them, and they were glad to get 
home upon any terms, without stopping to stipulate. With 
less than 100 men to defend the town of Lawrence, he offered 
to lead them and give battle to 1,400 men on the banks of the 
Waukerusia river, and was much vexed when his offer was 
refused by General Jim Lane and others, to whom the defense 
of the place was committed. Before leaving Kansas he went 
into the border of Missouri aftd liberated a dozen slaves in a 
single night, and despite of slave laws and marshals, he 
brought these people through a half dozen States and landed 
them safe in Canada. The successful efforts of the North in 
making Kansas a free State, despite all the sophistical doc- 
trines, and the sanguinary measures of the South to make it a 
slave State, exercised a potent influence upon subsequent 
political forces and events in the then near future. It is inter- 
esting to note the facility with which the statesmanship of a 
section of the country adapted its convictions to changed con- 
ditions. When it was found that the doctrine of popular 
sovereignty (first I think invented by General Cass, and after- 
wards adopted by Stephen A. Douglas) failed to make Kansas 
a slave State, and could not be safely trusted in other emer- 
gencies, southern statesmen promptly abandoned and repro- 
bated that doctrine, and took what they considered firmer 
ground. They lost faith in the rights, powers, and wisdom of 
the people and took refuge in the Constitution. Henceforth 


the favorite doctrine of the South was that the people of a 
territory had no voice in the matter of slavery whatever ; that 
the Constitution of the United States, of its own force and 
effect, carried slavery safely into any territory of the United 
States and protected the system there until it ceased to be a 
territory and became a State. The practical operation of this 
doctrine would be to make all the future new States slave- 
holding States, for slavery once planted and nursed for years 
in a territory would easily strengthen itself against the evil 
day and defy eradication. This doctrine was in some sense 
supported by Chief Justice Taney, in the infamous Dred Scott 
decision. This new ground, however, was destined to bring 
misfortune to its inventors, for it divided for a time the demo- 
cratic party, one faction of it going with John C. Breckenridge 
and the oilier espousing the cause of Stephen A. Douglas; the 
one held firmly to the doctrine that the United States Consti- 
tution, without any legislation, territorial, national, or other- 
wise, by its own force and effect, carried slavery into all the 
territories of the United States ; the other held that the people 
of a territory had the right to admit slavery or reject slavery, 
as in their judgment they might deem best. Now, while this 
war of words — this conflict of doctrines — was in progress, the 
portentous shadow of a stupendous civil war became more and 
more visible. Bitter complaints were raised by the slavehold- 
ers that they were about to be despoiled of their proper share 
in territory won by a common valor, or bought by a common 
treasure. The North, on the other hand, or rather a large 
and growing party at the North, insisted that the complaint 
was unreasonable and groundless ; that nothing properly con- 
sidered as property was excluded or meant to be excluded 
from the territories ; that southern men could settle in any 
territory of the United States with some kinds of property, 
and on the same footing and with the same protection as 
citizens of the North ; that men and women are not property 
in the same sense as houses, lands, horses, sheep, and swine 
are property, and that the fathers of the Republic neither 

342 harper's ferry. 

intended the extension nor the perpetuity of slavery ; that 
liberty is national, and slavery is sectional. From 1856 to 
1860 the whole land rocked with this great controversy. When 
the explosive force of this controversy had already weakened 
the bolts of the American Union ; when the agitation of the 
public mind was at its topmost height ; when the two sections 
were at their extreme points of difference ; when comprehend- 
ing the perilous situation, such statesmen of the North as 
William H. Seward sought to allay the rising storm by soft, 
persuasive speech, and when all hope of compromise had 
nearly vanished, as if to banish even the last glimmer of hope 
for peace between the sections, John Brown came upon the 
scene. On the night of the 16th of October, 1859, there 
appeared near the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah 
rivers, a party of 19 men — 14 white and 5 colored. They 
were not only armed themselves, but they brought with them 
a large supply of arms for such persons as might join them. 
These men invaded the town of Harper's Ferry, disarmed the 
watchman, took possession of the arsenal, rifle factory, 
armory, and other government property at that place, arrested 
and made prisoners of nearly all the prominent citizens in the 
neighborhood, collected about 50 slaves, put bayonets into the 
hands of such as were able and willing to fight for their liberty, 
killed 3 men, proclaimed general emancipation, held the 
ground more than thirty hours, were subsequently overpow- 
ered and nearly all killed, wounded, or captured by a body of 
United States troops under command of Col. Robert E. Lee, 
since famous as the rebel General Lee. Three out of the 
nineteen invaders were captured while fighting, and one of 
them was Capt. John Brown — the man who originated, plan- 
ned, and commanded the expedition. At the time of his capture 
Capt. Brown was supposed to be mortally wounded, as he had 
several ugly gashes and bayonet wounds on his head and body, 
and apprehending that he might speedily die, or that he might 
be rescued by his friends, and thus the opportunity to make 
him a signal example of slaveholding vengeance, would be lost, 


his captors hurried him to Charlestown, 10 miles further 
within the border of Virginia, placed him in prison strongly 
guarded by troops, and before his wounds were healed he was 
brought into court, subjected to a nominal trial, convicted of 
high-treason and inciting slaves to insurrection, and was 

His corpse was given up to his woe-stricken widow, and she, 
assisted by anti-slavery friends, caused it to be borne to North 
Elba, Essex county, N. Y., and there his dust now reposes 
amid the silent, solemn, and snowy grandeurs of the Adiron- 
dacks. This raid upon Harper's Ferry was as the last straw 
to the camel's back. What in the tone of southern sentiment 
had been fierce before became furious and uncontrollable now. 
A scream for vengeance came up from all sections of the slave 
States and from great multitudes in the North. All who were 
supposed to have been any way connected with John Brown 
were to be hunted down and surrendered to the tender mer- 
cies of slaveholding and panic-stricken Virginia, and there bo 
be tried after the fashion of John Brown's trial, and of course 
to be summarily executed. 

On the evening when the news came that John Brown had 
taken and was then holding the town of Harper's Ferry, it so 
happened that I was speaking to a large audience in National 
Hall, Philadelphia. The announcement came upon us with 
the startling effect of an earthquake. It was something to make 
the boldest hold his breath. I saw at once that my old friend 
had attempted what he had long ago resolved to do, and I felt 
certain that the result must be his capture and destruction. 
As I expected, the next day brought the news that with two 
or three men he had fortified and was holding a small engine 
house, but that he was surrounded by a body of Virginia 
militia, who thus far had not ventured to capture the insur- 
gents, but that escape was impossible. A few hours later and 
word came that Colonel Robert E. Lee with a company oi 
United States troops had made a breach in Capt. Brown's fort, 
and had captured him alive though mortally wounded. Hia 


carpet bag had been secured by Governor Wise, and that it 
was found to contain numerous letters and documents which 
directly implicated Gerritt Smith, Joshua R. Giddings, Samuel 
G. Howe, Frank P. Sanborn, and myself. This intelligence 
was soon followed by a telegram saying that we were all to be 
arrested. Knowing that I was then in Philadelphia, stopping 
with my friend, Thomas J. Dorsey, Mr. John Hern, the tele- 
graph operator, came to me and with others urged me to 
leave the city by the first train, as it was known through the 
newspapers that I was then in Philadelphia, and officers might 
even then be on my track. To me there was nothing improba- 
ble in all this. My friends for the most part were appalled at 
the thought of my being arrested then or there, or while on 
mv way across the ferry from Walnut street wharf to Camden, 
for there was where I felt sure the arrest would be made, and 
asked some of them to go so far as this with me merely tc 
see what might occur, but upon one ground or another they 
all thought it best not to be found in my company at such a 
time, except dear old Franklin Turner — a true man. The 
truth is, that in the excitement which prevailed my friends 
had reason to fear that the very fact that they were with me 
would be a sufficient reason for their arrest with me. The 
delay in the departure of the steamer seemed unusually long 
to me, for I confess I was seized with a desire to reach a more 
northern latitude. My friend Frank did not leave my side till 
" all ashore " was ordered and the paddles began to move. I 
reached New York at night, still under the apprehension of 
arrest at any moment, but no signs of such event being made, 
I went at once to the Barclay street ferry, took the boat across 
the river and went direct to Washington street, Hoboken, the 
home of Mrs. Marks, where I spent the night, and I may add 
without undue profession of timidity, an anxious night. The 
morning papers brought no relief, for they announced that the 
government would spare no pains in ferretting out and bring- 
ing to punishment all who were connected with the Harper's 
Ferry outrage, and that papers as well as persons would be 


searched for. I was now somewhat uneasy from the fact that 
sundry letters and a constitution written by John Brown were 
locked up in my desk in Rochester. In order to prevent these 
papers from falling into the hands of the government of 
Virginia, I got my friend Miss Ottilia Assing to write at my 
dictation the following telegram to B. F. Blackall, the tele- 
graph operator in Rochester, a friend and frequent visitor at 
my house, who would readily understand the meaning of the 
dispatch : 

"B. F. Blackall, Esq., 

" Tell Lewis (my oldest son) to secure all the important papers in my 
high desk." 

I did not sign my name, and the result showed that I had 
rightly judged that Mr. Blackall would understand and 
promptly attend to the request. The mark of the chisel with 
which the desk was opened is still on the drawer, and is one of 
the traces of the John Brown raid. Having taken measures 
to secure my papers the trouble was to know just what to do 
with myself. To stay in Hoboken was out of the question, 
and to go to Rochester was to all appearance to go into the 
hands of the hunters, for they would naturally seek me at my 
home if they sought me at all. I, however, resolved to go 
home and risk my safety there. I felt sure that once in the 
city I could not be easily taken from there without a prelimi- 
nary hearing upon the requisition, and not then if the people 
could he made aware of what was in progress. But how to 
get to Rochester became a serious question. It would not do 
to go to New York city and take the train, for that city was 
not less incensed against the John Brown conspirators than 
many parts of the South. The course hit upon by my friends, 
Mr. Johnston and Miss Assing, was to take me at night in a 
private conveyance from Hoboken to Paterson, where I could 
take the Erie railroad for home. This plan was carried out 
and I reached home in safety, but had been there but a few 
moments when I was called upon by Samuel D. Porter, Esq., 
and my neighbor, Lieutenant-Governor Selden, who informed 


me that the governor of the State would certainly surrender 
me on a proper requisition from the governor of Virginia, and 
that while the people of Rochester would not permit me to be 
taken South, yet in order to avoid collision with the govern- 
ment and consequent bloodshed, they advised me to quit the 
country, which I did — going to Canada. Governor Wise in 
the meantime, being advised that I had left Rochester for the 
State of Michigan, made requisition on the governor of that 
State for my surrender to Virginia. 

The following letter from Governor Wise to President 
James Buchanan (which since the war was sent me by B. J. 
Lossing, the historian,) will show by what means the governor 
of Virginia meant to get me in his power, and that my appre- 
hensions of arrest were not altogether groundless : 


Richmond, Va., Nov. 13, 1859. 
To His Excellency, James Buchanan, President of the United States, and to 
the Honorable Postmaster- General oftlw United States: 
Gentlemen — I have information such as has caused me, upon proper 
affidavits, to make requisition upon the Executive of Michigan for the 
delivery up of the person of Frederick Douglass, a negro man, supposed 
now to be in Michigan, charged with murder, robbery, and inciting servile 
insurrection in the State of Virginia. My agents for the arrest and reclamation 
of the person so charged are Benjamin M. Morris and William N. Kelly. 
The latter has the requisition, and will wait on you to the end of obtaining 
nominal authority as post-office agents. They need be very secretive in this 
matter, and some pretext for traveling through the dangerous section for the 
execution of the laws in this behalf, and some protection against obtrusive, 
unruly, or lawless violence. If it be proper so to do, will the postmaster- 
general be pleased to give to Mr. Kelly, for each of these men, a permit and 
authority to act as detectives for the post-office department, without pay, 
but to pass and repass without quest ion, delay or hindrance? 

Respectfully submitted by your obedient servant, 

Henry A. Wise. 

There is no reason to doubt that James Buchanan afforded 
Governor Wise all the aid and cooperation for which he was 
asked. I have been informed that several United States mar- 
shals were in Rochester in search of me within six hours aftc.- 
my departure. I do not know that I can do better at this 


stage of my story than to insert the following letter, written 
by me to the Rochester Democrat and American : 

Canada West, Oct. 31st, 1859. 
Mr. Editor: 

I notice that the telegraph makes Mr. Cook (one of the unfortunate insur- 
gents at Harper's Ferry, and now a prisoner in the hands of the thing calling 
itself the Government of Virginia, but which in fact is but an organized 
conspiracy by one part of the people against another and weaker) denounce 
me as a coward, and assert that I promised to be present in person at the 
Harper's Ferry insurrection. This is certainly a very grave impeachment 
whether viewed in its bearings upon friends or upon foes, and you will not 
think it strange that I should take a somewhat serious notice of it. Having 
no acquaintance whatever with Mr. Cook, and never having exchanged a 
word with him about Harper's Ferry insurrection, I am disposed to doubt if 
he could have used the language concerning me, which the wires attribute 
to him. The lightning when speaking for itself, is among the most direct, 
reliable, and truthful of things; but when speaking of the terror-stricken 
slaveholders at Harper's Ferry, it has been made the swiftest of liars. 
Under its nimble and trembling fingers it magnifies 17 men into 700 and has 
since filled the columns of the New York Herald for days with its intermin- 
able contradictions. But assuming that it has told only the simple truth as 
to the sayings of Mr. Cook in this instance, I have this answer to make to 
my accuser: Mr. Cook maybe perfectly right in denouncing me as a coward; 
I have not one word to say in defense or vindication of my character for cour- 
age ; I have always been more distinguished for running than fighting, and 
tried by the Harper's-Ferry-insurrection-test, I am most miserably deficient in 
courage, even more so than Cook when he deserted his brave old captain and 
fled to the mountains. To this extent Mr. Cook is entirely right, and will meet 
no contradiction from me, or from anybody else. 'But wholly, grievously and 
most unaccountably wrong is Mr. Cook when he asserts that I promised to 
be present in person at the Harper's Ferry insurrection. Of whatever other 
imprudence and indiscretion I may have been guilty, I have never made a 
promise so rash and wild as this. The taking of Harper's Ferry was a 
measure never encouraged by my word or by my vote. At any time or 
place, my wisdom or my cowardice, has not only kept me from Harper's 
Ferry, but has equally kept me from making any promise to go there. I 
desire to be quite emphatic here, for of all guilty men, he is the guiltiest who 
lures his f ellowmen to an undertaking of this sort, under promise of assist- 
ance which he afterwards fails to render. I therefore declare that there is 
no man living, and no man dead, who if living, could truthfully say that I 
ever promised him, or anybody else, either conditionally, or otherwise, that 
I would be present in person at the Harper's Ferry insurrection. My field 
of labor for the abolition of slavery has not extended to an attack upon the 
United States arsenal. In the teeth of the documents already published and 


of those which may hereafter be published, I affirm that no man connected 
with that insurrection, from its noble and heroic leader down, can connect 
my name with a single broken promise of any sort whatever. So much I 
deem it proper to say negatively. The time for a full statement of what I 
know and of all I know of this desperate but sublimely disinterested effort 
to emancipate the slaves of Maryland and Virginia from their cruel task- 
masters, has not yet come, and may never come. In the denial which I 
have now made, my motive is more a respectful consideration for the opin- 
ions of the slave's friends than from my fear of being made an accomplice 
in the general conspiracy against slavery, when there is a reasonable hope 
for success. Men who live by robbing their f ellowmen of their labor and 
liberty have forfeited their right to know anything of the thoughts, feelings, 
or purposes of those whom they rob and plunder. They have by the single 
act of slaveholding, voluntarily placed themselves beyond the laws of jus- 
tice and honor, and have become only fitted for companionship with thieves 
and pirates — the common enemies of God and of all mankind. "While it shall 
be considered right to protect oneself against thieves, burglars, robbery, and 
assassins, and to slay a wild beast in the act of devouring his human prey, it can 
never be wrong for the imbruted and whip-scarred slaves, or their friends, to 
hunt, harass, and even strike down the traffickers in human flesh. If any 
body is disposed to think less of me on account of this sentiment, or because 
I may have had a knowledge of what was about to occur, and did not 
assume the base and detestable character of an informer, he is a man whose 
good or bad opinion of me may be equally repugnant and despicable. 

Entertaining these sentiments, I may be asked why I did not join John 
Brown — the noble old hero whose one right hand has shaken the founda- 
tion of the American Union, and whose ghost will haunt the bed-chambers 
of all the born and unborn slaveholders of Virginia through all their gen- 
erations, filling them with alarm and consternation. My answer to this 
has already been given; at least impliedly given — "The tools to those who 
can use them! " Let every man work for the abolition of slavery in his 
own way. I would help all and hinder none. My position in regard to the 
Harper's Ferry insurrection may be easily inferred from these remarks, and 
I shall be glad if those papers which have spoken of me in connection with 
it, would find room for this brief statement. I have no apology for keep- 
ing out of the way of those gentlemanly United States marshals, who are 
said to have paid Rochester a somewhat protracted visit lately, with a view 
to an interview with me. A government recognizing the validity of the 
Bred Scott decision at such a time as this, is not likely to have any very 
charitable feelings towards me, and if I am to meet its representatives I prefer 
to do so at least upon equal terms. If I have committed any offense against 
society I have done so on the soil of thp State of New York, and I should 
be perfectly willing to be arraigned there before an impartial jury; but I 
have quite insuperable objections to being caught by the hounds of Mr. 
Buchanan, and "bagged" by Gov. Wise. For this appears to be the 


arrangement. Buchanan does the fighting and hunting, and Wise "bags" 
the game. Some reflections may be made upon my leaving on a tour to 
England just at this time. I have only to say that my going to that coun- 
try has been rather delayed than hastened by the insurrection at Harper's 
Ferry. All know that I had intended to leave here in the first week of 


Frederick Douglass." 



My connection with John Brown — To and from England — Presidential con- 
test — Election of Abraham Lincoln. 

WHAT was my connection with John Brown, and what 
I knew of his scheme for the capture of Harper's 
Ferry, I may now proceed to state. From the time of my 
visit to him in Springfield, Mass., in 18.47, our relations were 
friendly and confidential. I never passed through Springfield 
without calling on him, and he never came to Rochester with- 
out calling on me. He often stopped over night with me, 
when we talked over the feasibility of his plan for destroying 
the value of slave property, and the motive for holding slaves 
in the border States. That plan, as already intimated else- 
where, was to take twenty or twenty-five discreet and trust- 
worthy men into the mountains of Virginia and Maryland, 
and station them in squads of five, about five miles apart, on 
a line of twenty-five miles ; each squad to co-operate with all, 
and all with each. They were to have selected for them, 
secure and comfortable retreats in the fastnesses of the moun- 
tains, where they could easily defend themselves in case of 
attack. They were to subsist upon the country roundabout. 
They were to be well armed, but were to avoid battle or vio- 
lence, unless compelled by pursuit or in self-defense. In that 
case, they were to make it as costly as possible to the assail- 
ing party, whether that party should be soldiers or citizens. 
He further proposed to have a number of stations from the 
line of Pennsylvania to the Canada border, where such slaves 
as he might, through his men, induce to run away, should be 
supplied with food and shelter and be forwarded from one 
station to another till they should reach a place of safety 



either in Canada or the Northern States. He proposed to add 
to his force in the mountains any courageous and intelligent 
fugitives who might be willing to remain and endure the hard- 
ships and brave the dangers of this mountain life. These, he 
thought, if properly selected, on account of their knowledge 
of the surrounding country, could be made valuable auxilia- 
ries. The work of going into the valley of Virginia and per- 
suading the slaves to flee to the mountains, was to be com- 
mitted to the most courageous and judicious man connected 
with each squad. 

Hating slavery as I did, and making its abolition the object 
of my life, I was ready to welcome any new mode of attack 
upon the slave system which gave any promise of success. I 
readily saw that this plan could be made very effective in 
rendering slave property in Maryland and Virginia valueless 
by rendering it insecure. Men do not like to buy runaway 
horses, nor to invest their money in a species of property likely 
to take legs and walk off with itself. In the worse case, too, 
if the plan should fail, and John Brown should be driven 
from the mountains, a new fact would be developed by which 
the nation would be kept awake to the existence of slavery. 
Hence, I assented to this, John Brown's scheme or plan for 
running off slaves. 

To set this plan in operation, money and men, arms and 
ammunition, food and clothing, were needed ; and these, from 
the nature of the enterprise, were not easily obtained, and 
nothing was immediately done. Captain Brown, too, notwith- 
standing his rigid economy, was poor, and was unable to arm 
and equip men for the dangerous life he had mapped out. So 
the work lingered till after the Kansas trouble was over, and 
freedom was a fact accomplished in that Territory. This left 
him with arms and men, for the men who had been with him 
in Kansas, believed in him, and would follow him in any 
humane but dangerous enterprise he might undertake. 

After the close of his Kansas work, Captain Brown came 
to my house in Rochester, and said he desired to stop with me 


several weeks ; " but," he added, " I will not stay unless you 
will allow me to pay board." Knowing that he was no trifler 
and meant all he said, and desirous of retaining him under 
my roof, I charged three dollars a week. While here, he 
spent most of his time in correspondence. He wrote often 
to George L. Stearns of Boston, Gerrit Smith of Peterboro, N. 
Y., and many others, and received many letters in return. 
When he was not writing letters, he was writing and revising 
a constitution which he meant to put in operation by the men 
who should go with him in the mountains. He said that to 
avoid anarchy and confusion, there should be a regularly con- 
stituted government, to which each man who came with him 
should be sworn to honor and support. I have a copy of this 
constitution in Captain Brown's own handwriting, as prepared 
by himself at my house. 

He called his friends from Chatham (Canada) to come 
together that he might lay his constitution before them, for 
their approval and adoption. His whole time and thought 
were given to this subject. It was the first thing in the morn- 
ing and the last thing at night, till I confess it began to be 
something of a bore to me. Once in a while he would say he 
could, with a few resolute men, capture Harper's Ferry, and 
supply himself with arms belonging to the government at that 
place, but he never announced his intention to do so. It was 
however, very evidently passing in his mind as a thing he 
might do. I paid but little attention to such remarks, though 
I never doubted that he thought just what he said. Soon 
after his coming to me, he asked me to get for him two 
smoothly planed boards, upon which he could illustrate, with 
a pair of dividers, by a drawing, the plan of fortification 
which he meant to adopt in the mountains. 

These forts were to be so arranged as to connect one with 
the other, by secret passages, so that if one was carried, 
another could easily be fallen back upon, and be the means 
of dealing death to the enemy at the very moment when he 
might think himself victorious. I was less interested in these 


drawings than my children were, but they showed that the old 
man had an eye to the means as well as to the end, and was 
giving his best thought to the work he was about to take in 

It was his intention to begin this work in '58 instead of 
'59. Why he did not will appear from the following cir- 

While in Kansas, he made the acquaintance of one Colonel 
Forbes, an Englishman, who had figured somewhat in revolu- 
tionary movements in Europe, and, as it turned out, had 
become an adventurer — a soldier of fortune in this country. 
This Forbes professed to be an expert in military matters, and 
easily fastened upon John Brown, and, becoming master of 
his scheme of liberation, professed great interest in it, and 
offered his services to him in the preparation of his men for 
the work before them. After remaining with Brown a short 
time, he came to me in Rochester, with a letter from him, 
asking me to- receive and assist him. I was not favorably 
impressed with Colonel Forbes at first, but I " conquered my 
prejudice," took him to a hotel and paid his board while he 
remained. Just before leaving, he spoke of his family in 
Europe as in destitute circumstances, and of his desire to send 
them some money. I gave him a little — I forget how much 
— and through Miss Assing, a German lady, deeply interested 
in the John Brown scheme, he was introduced to several of my 
German friends in New York. But he soon wore them out 
by his endless begging ; and when he could make no more 
money by professing to advance the John Brown project, he 
threatened to expose it, and all connected with it. I think I 
was the first to be informed of his tactics, and I promptly 
communicated them to Captain Brown. Through my friend 
Miss Assing, I found that Forbes had told of Brown's designs 
to Horace Greeley, and to the government officials at Wash- 
ington, of which I informed Captain Brown, and this led to 
the postponement of the enterprise another year. It was 
hoped that by this delay, the story of Forbes would be dis- 


credited, and this calculation was correct, for nobody believed 
the scoundrel, though in this he told the truth. 

While at my house, John Brown made the acquaintance of 
a colored man who called himself by different names — some- 
times " Emperor," at other times, " Shields Green." He was 
a fugitive slave, who had made his escape from Charleston, 
South Carolina, a. State from which a slave found it no easy 
matter to run away. But Shields Green was not one to shrink 
from hardships or dangers. He was a man of few words, and 
his speech was singularly broken ; but his courage and self- 
respect made him quite a dignified character. John Brown 
saw at once what " stuff " Green " was made of," and confided 
to him his plans and purposes. Green easily believed in 
Brown, and promised to go with him whenever he should be 
ready to move. About three weeks before the raid on Har- 
per's Ferry, John Brown wrote to me, informing me that a 
beginning in his work would soon be made, and that before 
going forward he wanted to see me, and appointed an old 
stone quarry near Chamber sburg, Penn., as our place of meet- 
ing. Mr. Kagi, his secretary, would be there, and they wished 
me to bring any money I could command, and Shields Green 
along with me. In the same letter, he said that his " mining 
tools " and stores were then at Chambersburg, and that he 
would be there to remove them. I obeyed the old man's sum- 
mons. Taking Shields, we passed through New York city, 
where we called upon Rev. James Glocester and his wife, and 
told them where and for what we were going, and that our 
old friend needed money. Mrs. Glocester gave me ten dollars, 
and asked me to hand the same to John Brown, with her best 

When I reached Chambersburg, a good deal of surprise was 
expressed (for I was instantly recognized) that I should come 
there unannounced, and I was pressed to make a speech to 
them, with which invitation I readily complied. Meanwhile, 
I called upon Mr. Henry Watson, a simple-minded and warm- 
hearted man, to whom Capt. Brown had imparted the secret 


of my visit, to show me the road to the appointed rendezvous. 
Watson was very busy in his barber's shop, but he dropped all 
and put me on the right track. I approached the old quarry 
very cautiously, for John Brown was generally well armed, 
and regarded strangers with suspicion. He was there under 
the ban of the government, and heavy rewards were offered 
for his arrest, for offenses said to have been committed in 
Kansas. He was passing under the name of John Smith. 
As I came near, he regarded me rather suspiciously, but soon 
recognized me, and received me cordially. He had in his 
hand when I met him, a fishing-tackle, with which he had 
apparently been fishing in a stream hard by ; but I saw no 
fish, and did not suppose that he cared much for his " fisher- 
man's luck." The fishing was simply a disguise, and was 
certainly a good one. He looked every way like a man of the 
neighborhood, and as much at home as any of the farmers 
around there. His hat was old, and storm-beaten, and his 
clothing was about the color of the stone quarry itself — his 
then present dwelling-place. 

His face wore an anxious expression, and he was much 
worn by thought and exposure. I felt that I was on a dan- 
gerous mission, and was as little desirous of discovery as 
himself, though no reward had been offered for me. 

We — Mr. Kagi, Captain Brown, Shields Green, and myself, 
sat down among the rocks and talked over the enterprise 
which was about to be undertaken. The taking of Harper's 
Ferry, of which Captain Brown had merely hinted before, 
was now declared as his settled purpose, and he wanted to 
know what I thought of it. I at once opposed the measure 
with all the arguments at my command. To me, such a meas- 
ure would be fatal to running off slaves (as was the original 
plan), and fatal to all engaged in doing so. It would be an 
attack upon the federal government, and would array the 
whole country against us. Captain Brown did most of the 
talking on the other side of the question. He did not at all 
object to rousing the nation ; it seemed to him that something 


startling was just what the nation needed. He had com- 
pletely renounced his old plan, and thought that the capture 
of Harper's Ferry would serve as notice to the slaves that 
their friends had come, and as a trumpet to rally them to 
his standard. He described the place as to its means of 
defense, and how impossible it would be to dislodge him if 
once in possession. Of course I was no match for him in such 
matters, but I told him, and these were my words, that all 
his arguments, and all his descriptions of the place, convinced 
me that he was going into a perfect steel-trap, and that once 
in he would never get out alive ; that he would be surrounded 
at once and escape would be impossible. He was not to be 
shaken by anything I could say, but treated my views respect- 
fully, replying that even if surrounded he would find means for 
cutting his way out ; but that would not be forced upon him ; 
he should have a number of the best citizens of the neighbor- 
hood as his prisoners at the start, and that holding them as 
hostages, he should be able if worse came to worse, to dictate 
terms of egress from the town. I looked at him with some 
astonishment, that he could rest upon a reed so weak and 
broken, and told him that Virginia would blow him and his 
hostages sky-high, rather than that he should hold Harper's 
Ferry an hour. Our talk was long and earnest ; we spent the 
most of Saturday and a part of Sunday in this debate — Brown 
for Harper's Ferry, and I against it ; he for striking a blow 
which should instantly rouse the country, and I for the policy 
of gradually and unaccountably drawing off the slaves to the 
mountains, as at first suggested and proposed by him. When 
I found that he had fully made up his mind and could not be 
dissuaded, I turned to Shields Green and told him he heard 
what Captain Brown had said ; his old plan was changed, and 
that I should return home, and if he wished to go with me he 
could do so. Captain Brown urged us both to go with him, 
but I could not do so, and could but feel that he was about to 
rivet the fetters more firmly than ever on the limbs of the 
enslaved. In parting he put his arms around me in a manner 


more than friendly, and said : " Come with me, Douglass, I 
will defend you with my life. I want you for a special pur- 
pose. When I strike the bees will begin to swarm, and I shall 
want you to help hive them. ,, But my discretion or my cow- 
ardice made me proof against the dear old man's eloquence — 
perhaps it was something of both which determined my course. 
When about to leave I asked Green what he had decided to do, 
and was surprised by his coolly saving in his broken way, " I 
b'leve I'll go wid de ole man." Here we separated ; they to 
go to Harper's Ferry, I to Rochester. There has been some 
difference of opinion as to the propriety of my course in thus 
leaving my friend. Some have thought that I ought to have 
gone with him, but I have no reproaches for myself at this 
point, and since I have been assailed only by colored men who 
kept even farther from this brave and heroic man than I 
did, I shall not trouble myself much about their criticisms. 
They compliment me in assuming that I should perform 
greater deeds than themselves. 

Such then was my connection with John Brown, and it may 
be asked if this is all, why should I have objected to being 
sent to Virginia to be tried for the offence charged. The 
explanation is not difficult. I knew if my enemies could not 
prove me guilty of the offence of being with John Brown they 
could prove that I was Frederick Douglass ; they could prove 
that I was in correspondence and conspiracy with Brown 
against slavery; they could prove that I brought Shields 
Green, one of the bravest of his soldiers, all the way from 
Rochester to him at Chambersburg ; they could prove that I 
brought money to aid him, and in what was then the state 
of the public mind I could not hope to make a jury of Virginia 
believe I did not go the whole length which he went, or that I 
was not one of his supporters, and I knew that all Virginia, 
were I once in her clutches, would say " let him be hanged." 
Before I had left Canada for England Jeremiah Anderson, one 
of Brown's men, who was present and took part in the raid, 
but escaped by the mountains, joined me, and he told me that 


he and Shields Green were sent out on special duty as soon as 
the capture of the arsenal, etc., was effected. Their business 
was to bring in the slaves from the surrounding country, and 
hence they were on the outside when Brown was surrounded. 
I said to him, " Why then did not Shields come with you ? " 
" Well," he said, " I told him to come ; that we could do noth- 
ing more, but he simply said he must go done to de ole man." 
Anderson further told me that Captain Brown was careful to 
keep his plans from his men, and that there was much oppo- 
sition among them when they found what were the precise 
movements determined upon ; but they were an oath-bound 
company and like good soldiers were agreed to follow their 
captain wherever he might lead. 

On the 12th of November, 1859, 1 took passage from Quebec 
on board the steamer Scotia, Captain Thompson, of the Allan 
line. My going to England was not at first suggested by my 
connection with John Brown, but the fact that I was now in 
danger of arrest on the ground of complicity with him, 
made what I had intended a pleasure a necessity, for 
though in Canada, and under British law, it was not impossi- 
ble that I might be kidnapped and taken to Virginia. 
England had given me shelter and protection when the slave- 
hounds were on my track fourteen years before, and her gates 
were still open to me now that I was pursued in the name of 
Virginia justice. I could but feel that I was going into exile, 
perhaps for life. Slavery seemed to be at the very top of its 
power; the national government with all its powers and 
appliances were in its hands, and it bade fair to wield them 
for many years to come. Nobody could then see that in the 
short space of four years this power would be broken and the 
slave system destroyed. So I started on my voyage with feel- 
ings far from cheerful. No one who has not himself been 
compelled to leave his home and country and go into perma- 
nent banishment, can well imagine the state of mind and heart 
which such a condition brings. The voyage out was by the 
north passage, and at this season, as usual, it was cold, dark, 


and stormy. Before quitting the coast of Labrador, we had four 
degrees below zero. Although I had crossed the Atlantic 
twice before, I had not experienced such unfriendly weather 
as during the most of tins voyage. Our great ship was dashed 
about upon the surface of the sea, as though she had been 
the smallest " dugout." It seemed to tax all the seamanship 
of our captain to keep her in manageable condition ; but after 
battling with the waves on an angry ocean during fourteen 
long days, I gratefully found myself upon the soil of Great 
Britian, beyond the reach of Buchanan's power and Virginia's 
prisons. On reaching Liverpool, I learned that England was 
nearly as much alive to what had happened at Harper's Ferry 
as the United States, and I was immediately called upon in 
different parts of the country to speak on the subject of slav- 
ery, and especially to give some account of the men who had 
thus flung away their lives in a desperate attempt to free the 
slaves. My own relation to the affair was a subject of much 
interest, as was the fact of my presence there being in some 
sense to elude the demands of Governor Wise, who having 
learned that I was not in Michigan, but was on a British 
steamer bound for England, publicly declared that " could he 
overtake that vessel, he would take me from her deck at any 

While in England, and wishing to visit France, I wrote to 
Mr. George M. Dallas, the American minister at the British 
court, to obtain a passport. The attempt upon the life of 
Napoleon III about that time, and the suspicion that the con- 
spiracy against him had been hatched in England, made the 
French government very strict in the enforcement of its pass- 
port system. I might possibly have been permitted to visit 
that country without a certificate of my citizenship, but wish- 
ing to leave nothing to chance, I applied to the only compe- 
tent authority ; but true to the traditions of the Democratic 
party — true to the slaveholding policy of his country — true to 
the decision of the United States supreme court, and true, 
perhaps, to the petty meanness of his own nature, Mr. George 


M. Dallas, the Democratic American minister, refused to grant 
me a passport, on the ground that I was not a citizen of the 
United States. I did not beg or remonstrate with this digni- 
tary further, but simply addressed a note to the French min- 
ister at London, asking for a permit to visit France, and that 
paper came without delay. I mention this, not to belittle the 
civilization of my native country, but as a part of the story of my 
life. I could have borne this denial with more serenity, could 
I have foreseen what has since happened, but, under the cir- 
cumstances, it was a galling disappointment. 

I had at this time been about six months out of the United 
States. My time had been chiefly occupied in speaking on 
slavery, and other subjects, in different part3 of England and 
Scotland, meeting and enjoying the while the society of many 
of the kind friends whose acquaintance I had made during 
my visit to those countries fourteen years before. Much of 
the excitement caused by the Harper's Ferry insurrection had 
subsided, both at home and abroad, and I should have now 
gratified a long-cherished desire to visit France, and availed 
myself, for that purpose, of the permit so promptly and civilly 
given by the French minister, had not news reached me from 
home of the death of my beloved daughter Annie, the light 
and life of my house. Deeply distressed by this bereavement, 
and acting upon the impulse of the moment, regardless of the 
-peril, I at once resolved to return home, and took the first 
outgoing steamer for Portland, Maine. After a rough passage 
of seventeen days, I reached home by way of Canada, and 
remained in my house nearly a month before the knowledge 
got abroad that I was again in this country. Great chair, 
had now taken place in the public mind touching the John 
Brown raid. Virginia had satisfied her thirst for blood. She 
had executed all the raiders who had fallen into her hands. 
She had not given Captain Brown the benefit of a reasonable 
doubt, but hurried him to the scaffold in panic-stricken haste. 
She had made herself ridiculous by her fright, and despi sable 
by her fury. Emerson's prediction that Brown's gallows 


would become like the cross, was already being fulfilled. The 
old hero, in the trial hour, had behaved so grandly that men 
regarded him not as a murderer, but as a martyr. All over the 
North men were singing the John Brown song. His body was 
in the dust, but his soul was marching on. His defeat was 
already assuming the form and pressure of victory, and his 
death was giving new life and power to the principles of jus- 
tice and liberty. He had spoken great words in the face of 
death and the champions of slavery. He had quailed before 
neither. What he had lost by the sword, he had more than 
gained by the truth. Had he wavered, had he retreated or 
apologized, the case had been different. He did not even ask 
that the cup of death might pass from him. To his own soul 
he was right, and neither " principalities nor powers, life nor 
death, things present or things to come," could shake his 
dauntless spirit, or move him from his ground. He may not 
have stooped on his way to the gallows to kiss a little colored 
child, as it is reported he did, but the act would have been in 
keeping with the tender heart, as well as with the heroic spirit 
of the man. Those who looked for confession heard only the 
voice of rebuke and warning. 

Early after the insurrection at Harper's Ferry, an investi- 
gating committee was appointed by Congress, and a " drag 
net " was spread all over the country, in the hope of incul- 
pating many distinguished persons. They had imprisoned 
Thaddeus Hyatt, who denied their right to interrogate him, 
and had called many witnesses before them, as if the judicial 
power of the nation had been confided to their committee, and 
not to the supreme court of the United States. But Captain 
Brown implicated nobody. Upon his own head he invited all 
the bolts of slaveholding vengeance. He said that he, and he 
alone, was responsible for all that had happened. He had 
many friends, but no instigators. In all their efforts, this 
committee signally failed, and soon after my arrival home, 
they gave up the search, and asked to be discharged, not hav- 
ing half fulfilled the duty for which they were appointed. 


I have never been able to account satisfactorily for th© 
sudden abandonment of this investigation on any other ground 
than that the men engaged in it expected soon to be in 
rebellion themselves, and that not a rebellion for liberty like 
that of John Brown, but a rebellion for slavery, and that they 
saw that by using their senatorial power in search of rebels 
they might be whetting a knife for their own throats. At 
any rate the country was soon relieved of the congressional 
drag-net and was now engaged in the heat and turmoil of a 
presidential canvass — a canvass which had no parallel, 
involving as it did the question of peace or war, the integrity 
or the dismemberment of the Republic ; and I may add, the 
maintenance or destruction of slavery. In some of the south- 
ern States the people were already organizing and arming to 
be ready for an apprehended contest, and with this work on 
their hands they had no time to spare to those they had wished 
to convict as instigators of the raid, however desirous they 
might have been to do so under other circumstances, for they 
had parted with none of their hate. As showing their feeling 
toward me I may state that a colored man appeared about this 
time in Knoxville, Tenn., and was beset by a furious crowd 
with knives and bludgeons, because he was supposed to be 
Fred. Douglass. But, however perilous it would have been 
for me to have shown myself in any southern State, there was 
no especial danger for me at the North. 

Though disappointed in my tour on the Continent, and 
called home by one of the saddest events that can afflict the 
domestic circle, my presence here was fortunate, since it 
enabled me to participate in the most important and memorar 
ble presidential canvass ever witnessed in the United States, 
and to labor for the election of a man who in the order of 
events was destined to do a greater service to his country and 
to mankind, than any man who had gone before him in the 
presidential office. It is something to couple one's name with 
great occasions, and it was a great tiling to me to be per- 
mitted to bear some humble part in this, the greatest that had 


thus far come to the American people. It was a great thing 
to achieve American independence when we numbered three 
millions, but it was a greater thing to save this country from 
dismemberment and ruin when it numbered thirty millions. 
He alone of all our Presidents was to have the opportunity to 
destroy slavery, and to lift into manhood millions of his coun- 
trymen hitherto held as chattels and numbered with the 
beasts of the field. 

The presidential canvass of 1860 was three sided, and each 
side had its distinctive doctrine as to the question of slavery 
and slavery extension. We had three candidates in the field. 
Stephen A. Douglas was the standard bearer of what may be 
called the western faction of the old divided democratic party, 
and John C. Breckenridge was the standard-bearer of the 
southern or slaveholding faction of that party. Abraham Lin- 
coln represented the then young, growing, and united republi- 
can party. The lines between these parties and candidates 
were about as distinctly and clearly drawn as political lines 
are capable of being drawn. The name of Douglas stood for 
territorial sovereignty, or in other words, for the right of the 
people of a territory to admit or exclude, to establish or abolish, 
slavery, as to them might seem best. The doctrine of Brecken- 
ridge was that slaveholders were entitled to carry their slaves 
into any territory of the United States and to hold them there, 
with or without the consent of the people of the territory ; that 
the Constitution of its own force carried slavery and protected 
it into any territory open for settlement in the United States. 
To both these parties, factions, and doctrines, Abraham Lin- 
coln and the republican party stood opposed. They held that 
the Federal Government had the right and the power to 
exclude slavery from the territories of the United States, and 
that that right and power ought to be exercised to the extent 
of confining slavery inside the slave States, with a view- 
to its ultimate extinction. The position of Mr. Douglas gave 
him a splendid pretext for the display of a species of oratory of 
which he was a distinguished master. He alone of the three 


candidates took the stump, as the preacher of popular sover- 
eignty, called in derision at the time " Squatter" Sovereignty. 
This doctrine, if not the times, gave him a chance to play fast 
and loose, and blow hot and cold, as occasion might require. 
In the South and among slaveholders he could say, " My great 
principle of popular sovereignty does not and was not intended 
by me to prevent the extension of slavery ; on the contrary it 
gives you the right to take your slaves into the territories and 
secure legislation legalizing slavery ; it denies to the Federal 
Government all right of interference against you, and hence is 
eminently favorable to your interests." When among people 
known to be indifferent he could say, " I do not care whether 
slavery is voted up or voted down in the territory," but when 
addressing the known opponents of the extension of slavery, 
he could say that the people of the territories were in no 
danger of having slavery forced upon them since they could 
keep it out by adverse legislation. Had he made these repre- 
sentations before railroads, electric wires, phonography, and 
newspapers had become the powerful auxiliaries they have 
done Mr. Douglas might have gained many votes, but they 
were of little avail now. The South was too sagacious to 
leave slavery to the chance of defeat in a fair vote by the 
people of a territory. Of all property none could less afford 
to take such a risk, for no property can require more strongly 
favoring conditions for its existence. Not only the intelli- 
gence oi the slave, but the instincts of humanity, must be 
barred by positive law, hence Breckenridge and his friends 
erected the flinty walls of the Constitution and the Supreme 
Court for the protection of slavery at the outset. Against both 
Douglas and Breckenridge Abraham Lincoln proposed his 
grand historic doctrine of the power and duty of the National 
Government to prevent the spread and perpetuity of slavery. 
Into this contest I threw myself, with firmer faith and more 
ardent hope than ever before, and what I could do by pen 
or voice was done with a will. The most remarkable and 
memorable feature of this canvass, was that it was prosecuted 


under the portentous shadow of a threat : leading public men 
of the South had with the vehemence of fiery purpose, given 
it out in advance that in case of their failure to elect their 
candidate (Mr. John C. Breckenridge) they would proceed 
to take the slaveholding States out of the Union, and that in 
no event whatever would they submit to the rule of Abraham 
Lincoln. To many of the peace-loving friends of the Union, 
this was a fearful announcement, and it doubtless cost the 
Republican candidates many votes. To many others, how- 
ever, it was deemed a mere bravado — sound and fury signify- 
ing nothing. With a third class its effect was very different. 
They were tired of the rule-or-ruin intimidation adopted by 
the South, and felt then, if never before, that they had quailed 
before it too often and too long. It came as an insult and a 
challenge in one, and imperatively called upon them for inde- 
pendence, self-assertion, and resentment. Had Southern 
men puzzled their brains to find the most effective means to 
array against slavery and slaveholding manners the solid 
opposition of the North, they could not have hit upon any 
expedient better suited to that end, than was this threat. It 
was not only unfair, but insolent, and more like an address to 
cowardly slaves than to independent freemen ; it had in it the 
meanness of the horse-jockey, who, on entering a race, pro- 
poses, if beaten, to run off with the stakes. In all my 
speeches made during this canvass, I did not fail to take 
advantage of this southern bluster and bullying. 

As I have said, this southern threat lost many votes, but 
it gained more than would cover the lost. It frightened the 
timid, but stimulated the brave ; and the result was — the tri- 
umphant election of Abraham Lincoln. 

Then came the question, what will the South do about it ? 
Will she eat her bold words, and submit to the verdict of the 
people, or proceed to the execution of the programme she 
had marked out for herself prior to the election? The 
inquiry was an anxions one, and the blood of the North stood 
still, waiting for the response. It had not to wait long, for 


the trumpet of war was soon sounded, and the tramp of armed 
men was heard in that region. During all the winter of 1860 
notes of preparation for a tremendous conflict came to us 
from that quarter on every wind. Still the warning was not 
taken. Few of the North could really believe that this inso- 
lent display of arms would end in anything more substantial 
than dust and smoke. 

The shameful and shocking course of President Buchanan 
and his Cabinet towards this rising rebellion against the gov- 
ernment which each and all of them had solemnly sworn to 
" support, defend, and maintain " — : that the treasury was 
emptied, that the army was scattered, that our ships of war 
were sent out of the way, that our forts and arsenals in the 
South were weakened and crippled, — purposely left an easy 
prey to the prospective insurgents, — that one after another 
the States were allowed to secede, that these rebel measures 
were largely encouraged by the doctrine of Mr. Buchanan, that 
he found no power in the constitution to coerce a State, are 
all matters of history, and need only the briefest mention 

To arrest. this tide of secession and revolution, which was 
sweeping over the South, the southern papers, which still 
had some dread of the consequences likely to ensue from the 
course marked out before the election, proposed as a means for 
promoting conciliation and satisfaction, that " each northern 
State, through her legislature, or in convention assembled, 
should repeal all laws passed for the injury of the constitu- 
tional rights of the South (meaning thereby all laws passed 
for the protection of personal liberty) ; that they should pass 
laws for the easy and prompt execution of the fugitive slave 
law ; that they should pass other laws imposing penalties on 
all malefactors who should hereafter assist or encourage the 
escape of fugitive slaves ; also, laws declaring and protecting 
the right of slaveholders to travel and sojourn in Northern 
States, accompanied by their slaves ; also, that they should 
instruct their representatives and senators in Congress to 


repeal the law prohibiting the sale of slaves in the District of 
Columbia, and pass laws sufficient for the full protection of 
slave property in the Territories of the Union." 

It may indeed be well regretted that there was a class of 
men in the North willing to patch up a peace with this ram- 
pant spirit of disunion by compliance with these offensive, 
scandalous, and humiliating terms, and to do so without any 
guarantee that the South would then be pacified ; rather with 
the certainty, learned by past experience, that it would by no 
means promote this end. I confess to a feeling allied to sat- 
isfaction at the prospect of a conflict between the North and 
the South. Standing outside the pale of American humanity, 
denied citizenship, unable to call the land of my birth my 
country, *and adjudged by the supreme court of the United 
States to have no rights which white men were bound to 
respect, and longing for the end of the bondage of my people, 
I was ready for any political upheaval which should bring 
about a change in the existing condition of things. Whether 
the war of words would or would not end in blows was for a 
time a matter of doubt ; and when it became certain that the 
South was wholly in earnest, and meant at all hazards to exe- 
cute its threats of disruption, a visible change in the senti- 
ment of the North was apparent. 

The reaction from the glorious assertion of freedom and 
independence on the part of the North in the triumphant 
election of Abraham Lincoln, was a painful and humiliating 
development of its weakness. It seemed as if all that had 
been gained in the canvass was about to be surrendered to the 
vanquished : that the South, though beaten at the polls, were 
to be victorious and have every thing its own way in the final 
result. During all the intervening months, from November to 
the ensuing March, the drift of northern sentiment was 
towards compromise. To smooth the way for this, most of the 
northern legislatures repealed their personal liberty bills, as 
they were supposed to embarrass the surrender of fugitive 
slaves to their claimants. The feeling everywhere seemed to 


be that something must he done to convince the South that 
the election of Mr. Lincoln meant no harm to slavery or the 
slave power, and that the North was sound on the question of 
the right of the master to hold and hunt his slave as long as 
he pleased, and that even the right to hold slaves in the Ter- 
ritories should be submitted to the supreme court, which would 
probably decide in favor of the most extravagant demands of 
the slave States. The northern press took on a more conser- 
vative tone towards the slavery propagandists, and a corre- 
sponding tone of bitterness towards anti-slavery men and 
measures. It came to be a no uncommon thing to hear men 
denouncing South Carolina and Massachusetts in the same 
breath, and in the same measure of disapproval. The old pro- 
slavery spirit which, in 1835, mobbed anti-slavery prayer- 
meetings, and dragged William Lloyd Garrison through the 
streets of Boston with a halter about his neck, was revived. 
From Massachusetts to Missouri, anti-slavery meetings were 
ruthlessly assailed and broken up. With others, I was roughly 
handled by a mob in Tremont Temple, Boston, headed by one 
of the wealthiest men of that city. The talk was that the 
blood of some abolitionist must be shed to appease the wrath 
of the offended South, and to restore peaceful relations be- 
tween the two sections of the country. A howling mob fol- 
lowed Wendell Phillips for three days whenever he appeared 
on the pavements of his native city, because of kis ability and 
prominence in the propagation of anti-slavery opinions. 

While this humiliating reaction was going on at the North, 
various devices were suggested and pressed at Washington, 
to bring about peace and reconciliation. Committees were 
appointed to listen to southern grievances, and, if possible, 
devise means of redress for such as might be alleged. Some 
of these peace propositions would have been shocking to the 
last degree to the moral sense of the North, had not fear for 
the safety of the Union overwhelmed all moral conviction. 
Such men as William H. Seward, Charles Francis Adams, 
Henry B. Anthony, Joshua R. Giddings, and others — men 

Portrait of William Lloyd Garrison. 


whose courage had been equal to all other emergencies — bent 
before this southern storm, and were ready to purchase peace 
at any price. Those who had stimulated the courage of the 
North before the election, and had shouted " Who's afraid ?" 
were now shaking in their shoes with apprehension and dread. 
One was for passing laws in the northern States for the better 
protection of slave hunters, and for the greater efficiency of 
the fugitive slave bill. Another was for enacting laws to 
punish the invasion of the slave States, and others were for 
so altering the constitution of the United States that the 
federal government should never abolish slavery while any 
one State should object to such a measure.* Everything that 
could be demanded by insatiable pride and selfishness on the 
part of the slaveholding South, or could be surrendered by 
abject fear and servility on the part of the North, had able 
and eloquent advocates. 

Happily for the cause of human freedom, and for the final 
unity of the American nation, the South was mad, and would 
listen to no concessions. They would neither accept the terms 
offered, nor offer others to be accepted. They had made up 
their minds that under a given contingency they would secede 
from the Union and thus dismember the Republic. That con- 
tingency had happened, and they should execute their threat. 
Mr. Ireson of Georgia, expressed the ruling sentiment of his 
section when he told the northern peacemakers that if the 
people of the South were given a blank sheet of paper upon 
which to write their own terms on which they would remain 
in the Union, they would not stay. They had come to hate 
everything which had the prefix "Free" — free soil, free 
6tates, free territories, free schools, free speech, and freedom 
generally, and they would have no more such prefixes. This 
haughty and unreasonable and unreasoning attitude of the 
imperious South saved the slave and saved the nation. Had 
the South accepted our concessions and remained in the Union 

# See History of American Conflict, Vol. II, by Horace Greelej. 



the slave power would in all probability have continued to 
rule ; the north would have become utterly demoralized ; the 
hands on the dial-plate of American civilization would have 
been reversed, and the slave would have been dragging his 
hateful chains to-day wherever the American flag floats tothe 
breeze. Those who may wish to see to what depths of 
humility and self-abasement a noble people can be brought 
under the sentiment of fear, will find no chapter of history more 
instructive than that which treats of the events in official 
circles in Washington during the space between the months 
of November, 1859, and March, 1860. 



Recruiting of the 54th and 55th Colored Regiments — Visit to President 
Lincoln and Secretary Stanton — Promised a Commission as Adjutant 
General to General Thomas — Disappointment. 

THE .cowardly and disgraceful reaction, from a courageous 
and manly assertion of right principles, as described in 
the foregoing pages, continued surprisingly long after seces- 
sion and war were commenced. The patience and forbear- 
ance of the loyal people of the North were amazing. Speak- 
ing of this feature of the situation in Corinthian Hall, Roches- 
ter, at the time, I said : 

"We (the people of the North) are a charitable people, and in the excess 
of this feeling we were disposed to put the very best construction upon the 
strange behavior of our southern brethren. We hoped that all would yet 
go well. We thought that South Carolina might secede; it was entirely like 
her to do so. She had talked extravagantly about going out of the Union, 
and it was natural that sl>e should do something extravagant and startling if 
for nothing else, to save a show of consistency. Georgia too, we thought might 
possibly secede. But strangely enough we thought and felt quite sure that 
these twin rebellious States would stand alone and unsupported in their 
infamy and their impot en cy; that they would soon tire of their isolation, 
repent of their folly and come back to their places in the Union. Traitors 
withdrew from the Cabinet, from the House of Representatives, and from 
the Senate, and hastened to their several States to 'fire the southern heart,' 
and to fan the hot flames of treason at home. Still we doubted if anything 
serious would come of it. We treated it as a bubble on the wave — a nine 
days' wonder. Calm and thoughtful men ourselves, we relied upon the 
sober second thought of the southern people. Even the capture of a fort, a 
shot at one of our ships — an insult to the national flag — caused only a 
momentary feeling of indignation and resentment. We could not but 
believe that there existed at the South a latent and powerful Union senti- 
ment which would assert itself at last. Though loyal soldiers had been fired 
upon in the streets of Baltimore; though loyal blood had stained the pay- 
ments of that beautiful city, and the national government was warned to 
•end no troops through Baltimore to the defense of the National Capital, we 


374 author's speech in Rochester. 

could not be made to believe that the border States would plunge madly 
into the bloody vortex of rebellion. 

•* But this confidence, patience, and forbearance could not last forever. 
These blissful illusions of hope were in a measure dispelled when the bat- 
teries of Charleston harbor were opened upon the starving garrison at Fort 
Sumpter. For the moment the northern lamb was transformed into a lion, 
and his roar was terrible. But he only showed his teeth, and clearly had no 
wish to use them. We preferred to fight with dollars and not daggers. 
'The fewer battles the better,' was the hopeful motto at Washington. 
'Peace in sixty days,' was held out by the astute Secretary of State. In 
fact, there was at the North no disposition to fight ; no spirit of hate ; no 
comprehension of the stupendous character and dimensions of the rebellion, 
and no proper appreciation of its inherent wickedness. Treason had shot 
its poisonous roots deeper, and had spread its death-dealing branches further 
than any northern calculation had covered. Thus while rebels were waging 
a barbarous war, marshaling savage Indians to join them in the slaughter; 
while rifled cannon balls were battering down the walls of our forts, and the 
iron-clad hand of monarchical power was being invoked to assist in the 
destruction of our government and the dismemberment of our country; 
while a tremendous rebel ram was sinking our fleet and threatening the 
cities of our coast, we were still dreaming of peace. This infatuation, this 
blindness to the significance of passing events, can only be accounted for by 
the rapid passage of these events, and by the fact of the habitual leniency 
and good- will cherished by the North towards the South. Our very lack ol 
preparation for the conflict disposed us to look for some other than the way of 
blood out of the difficulty. Treason had largely infected both army and navy. 
Floyd had scattered our arms. Cobb had depleted our treasury, and Buchanan 
had poisoned the political thought of the times by his doctrines of anti-coer- 
cion. It was in such a condition of things as this that Abraham Lincoln (com- 
pelled from fear of assassination to enter the capital in disguise) was inaugura- 
ted and issued his proclamation for the ' repossession of the forts, places, and 
property which had been seized from the Union,' and his call upon the militia 
of the several States to the number of 75,000 men — a paper which showed how 
little even he comprehended the work then before the loyal nation. It was 
perhaps better for the country and for mankind that the good man could 
not know the end from the beginning. Had he foreseen the thousands who 
must sink into bloody graves ; the mountains of debt to be laid on the breast 
of the nation; the terrible hardships and sufferings involved in the contest; 
and his own death by an assassin's hand, he too might have adopted the 
weak sentiment of those who said 'erring sisters depart in peace.'" 

From the first, I, for one, saw in this war the end of slav- 
ery ; and truth requires me to say that my interest in the 
success of the North was largely due to this belief. True it 
is that this faith was many times shaken by passing events, 


but never destroyed. When Secretary Seward instructed our 
ministers to say to the governments to which they were 
accredited, that, " terminate however it might, the status of 
no class of the people of the United States would be changed 
by the rebellion — that the slaves would be slaves still, and 
that the masters would be masters still" — when General 
McClellan and General Butler warned the slaves in advance 
that if any attempt was made by them to gain their freedom, 
it would be suppressed with an iron hand " — when the gov- 
ernment persistently refused to employ colored troops — when 
the emancipation proclamation of General John C. Preemont 
in Missouri was withdrawn — when slaves were being returned 
from our lines to their masters — when Union soldiers were 
stationed about the farm houses of Virginia to guard and 
protect the master in holding his slaves — when Union sol- 
diers made themselves more active in kicking colored men out 
of their camps than in shooting rebels — when even Mr. Lin- 
coln could tell the poor negro that " he was the cause of the 
war," I still believed, and spoke as I believed, all over the 
North, that the mission of the war was the liberation of the 
slave, as well as the salvation of the Union ; and hence from 
the first I reproached the North that they fought the rebels 
with only one hand, when they might strike effectually with 
two — that they fought with their soft white hand while they 
kept their black iron hand chained and helpless behind them 
— that they fought the effect while they protected the cause, 
and that the Union cause would never prosper till the war 
assumed an anti-slavery attitude, and the negro was enlisted 
on the loyal side. In every way possible, in the columns of 
my paper and on the platform, by letters to friends, at home 
and abroad, I did all that I could to impress this conviction 
upon this country. But nations seldom listen to advice from 
individuals, however reasonable. They are taught less by 
theories than by facts and events. There was much that 
could be said against making the war an abolition war — much 
that seemed wise and patriotic. " Make the war an abolition 


war," we were told, " and you drive the border States into the 
rebellion, and thus add power to the enemy, and increase the 
uumber you will have to meet on the battle-field. You will 
exasperate and intensify southern feeling, making it more 
desperate, and put far away the day of peace between the two 
sections." " Employ the arm of the negro, and the loyal men 
of the North will throw down their arms and go home." 
" This is the white man's country, and the white man's war." 
" It would inflict an intolerable wound upon the pride and 
spirit of white soldiers of the Union, to see the negro in the 
United States uniform. Besides, if you make the negro a 
soldier, you cannot depend on his courage : a crack of his old 
master's whip would send him scampering in terror from the 
field." And so it was that custom, pride, prejudice, and the 
old-time respect for southern feeling, held back the govern- 
ment from an anti-slavery policy, and from arming the negro. 
Meanwhile the rebellion availed itself of the negro most 
effectively. He was not only the stomach of the rebellion, 
by supplying its commissary department, but he built its forts, 
and dug its intrenchments, and performed other duties of its 
camp, which left the rebel soldier more free to fight the loyal 
army than he could otherwise have been. It was the cotton 
and corn of the negro that made the rebellion sack stand on 
end, and caused a continuance of the war. " Destroy these," 
was the burden of all my utterances during this part of the 
struggle, " and you cripple and destroy the rebellion." It is 
surprising how long and bitterly the government resisted and 
rejected this view of the situation. The abolition heart of the 
North ached over the delay, and uttered its bitter complaints, 
but the administration remained blind and dumb. Bull Run, 
Ball's Bluff, Big Bethel, Fredericksburg, and the Peninsula 
disasters were the only teachers whose authority was of suffi- 
cient importance to excite the attention or respect of our 
rulers, and they were even slow in being taught by these. An 
important point was gained, however, when General B. F. 
Butler, at Fortress Monroe, announced the policy of treating 


the slaves as " contrabands," to be made useful to the Union 
cause, and was sustained therein at Washing-ton, and senti- 
ments of a similar nature were expressed on the floor of Con- 
gress by Hon. A. G. Riddle of Ohio. A grand accession was 
made to this view of the case when Hon. Simon Cameron, 
then secretary of war, gave it his earnest support, and General 
David Hunter put the measure into practical operation in 
South Carolina. General Phelps from Vermont, in command 
at Carrollton, La., also advocated the same plan though under 
discouragements which cost him his command. And many 
and grievous disasters on flood and field were needed to edu- 
cate the loyal nation and President Lincoln up to the realiza- 
tion of the necessity, not to say justice, of this position, and 
many devices, intermediate steps, and make-shifts were sug- 
gested to smooth the way to the ultimate policy of freeing the 
slave, and arming the freedmen. 

When at last the truth began to dawn upon the administra- 
tion that the negro might be made useful to loyalty, as well 
as to treason, to the Union as well as to the Confederacy, it 
then considered in what way it could employ him, which would 
in the least shock and offend the popular prejudice against 
him. He was already in the army as a waiter, and in that 
capacity there was no objection to him, and so it was thought 
that as this was the case, the feeling which tolerated him as a 
waiter would not seriously object if he should be admitted to the 
army as a laborer, especially as no one under a southern sun 
cared to have a monopoly of digging and toiling in trenches. 
This was the first step in employing negroes in the United 
States service. The second step was to give them a peculiar 
costume which should distinguish them from soldiers, and yet 
mark them as a part of the loyal force. As the eyes of the 
loyal administration still further opened, it was proposed to 
give these laborers something better than spades and shovels 
with which to defend themselves in cases of emergency. Still 
later it was proposed to make them soldiers, but soldiers with- 
out the blue uniform. Soldiers with a mark upon them to 


show that they were inferior to other soldiers ; soldiers with a 
badge of degradation upon them. However, once in the army 
as a laborer, once there with a red shirt on his back and a 
pistol in his belt, the negro was not long in appearing on the 
field as a soldier. But still he was not to be a soldier in the 
sense, and on an equal footing, with white soldiers. It was 
given out that he was not to be employed in the open field 
with white troops, under the inspiration of doing battle and 
winning victories for the Union cause, and in the face and 
teeth of his old masters, but that he should be made to garri- 
son forts in yellow fever and otherwise unhealthy localities of 
the South, to save the health of white soldiers, and in order to 
keep up the distinction further the black soldiers were to have 
only half the wages of the white soldiers, and were to be com- 
manded entirely by white commissioned officers. While of 
course I was deeply pained and saddened by the estimate thus 
put upon my race, and grieved at the slowness of heart which 
aaarked the conduct of the loyal government, I was not dis- 
couraged, and urged every man who could to enlist ; to get an 
eagle on his button, a musket on his shoulder, and the star- 
spangled banner over his head. Hence, as soon as Governor 
Andrew of Massachusetts received permission from Mr. Lin- 
coln to raise two colored regiments, the 54th and 55th, I made 
the following address to the colored citizens of the North 
through my paper, then being published in Rochester, which 
was copied in the leading journals : 


"When first the rebel cannon shattered the walls of Sumpter and drove 
away its starving garrison, I predicted that the war then and there inaug- 
urated would not be fought out entirely by white men. Every month's 
experience during these dreary years has confirmed that opinion. A war 
undertaken and brazenly carried on for the perpetual enslavement of colored 
men, calls logically and loudly for colored men to help suppress it. Only a 
moderate share of sagacity was needed to see that the arm of the slave was the 
best defense against the arm of the slaveholder. Hence with every reverse to 
the national arms, with every exulting shout of victory raised by the slavehold- 
ing rebels, I have implored the imperiled nation to unchain against her foes, 
her powerful black hand. Slowly and reluctantly that appeal is beginning to 


be heeded. Stop not now to complain that it wa§ not heeded sooner. It 
may or it may not have been best that it should not. This is not the time 
to discuss that question. Leave it to the future. When the war is over, 
the country is saved, peace is established, and the black man's rights are 
secured, as they will be, history with an impartial hand will dispose of that 
and sundry other questions. Action! Action! not criticism, is the plain 
duty of this hour. Words are now useful only as they stimulate to blow?. 
The office of speech now is only to point out when, where, and how to 
strike to the best advantage. There is no time to delay. The tide is at its 
flood that leads on to fortune. From East to West, from North to South, 
the sky is written all over, ' Now or never. ' Liberty won by white men 
would lose half its luster. ' Who would be free themselves must strike the 
blow.' ' Better even die free, than to live slaves.' This is the sentiment of 
every brave colored man amongst us. There are weak and cowardly men 
in all nations. We have them amongst us. They tell you this is the 
'white man's war'; that you will be no 'better off after than before the 
war'; that the getting of you into the army is to ' sacrifice you on the first 
opportunity.' Believe them not; cowards themselves, they do not wish to 
have their cowardice shamed by your brave example. Leave them to their 
timidity, or to whatever motive may hold them back. I have not thought 
lightly of the words I am now addressing you. The counsel I give comes of 
close observation of the great struggle now in progress, and of the deep 
conviction that this is your hour and mine. In good earnest then, and after 
the best deliberation, I now for the first time during this war, feel at liberty 
to call and counsel you to arms. By every consideration which binds you 
to your enslaved fellow-countrymen, and the peace and welfare of your 
country; by every aspiration which you cherish for the freedom and equality 
of yourselves and your children; by all the ties of blood and identity which 
make us one with the brave black men now fighting our battles in Louisi- 
ana and in South Carolina, I urge you to fly to arms, and smite with death 
the power that would bury the government and your liberty in the same 
"hopeless grave. I wish I could tell you that the State of New York calls 
you to this high honor. For the moment her constituted authorities are 
silent on the subject. They will speak by and by, and doubtless on the 
right side ; but we are not compelled to wait for her. We can get at the 
thioat of treason and slavery through the State of Massachusetts. She was 
first in the War of Independence; first to break the chains of her slaves; 
first to make the black man equal before the law; first to admit colored 
children to her common schools, and she was first to answer with her 
blood the alarm cry of the nation, when its capital was menanced by rebels. 
You know her patriotic governor, and you know Charles Sumner. I need 
not add more. 

Massachusetts now welcomes you to arms as soldiers. She has but a 
email colored population from which to recruit. She has full leave of the 
general government to send one regiment to the war, and she has under- 


taken to do it. Go quickly and help fill up the first colored regiment from 
the North. I am authorized to assure you that you will receive the same 
wages, the same rations, the same equipments, the same protection, the same 
treatment, and the same bounty, secured to white soldiers. You will be 
led by able and skillful officers, men who will take especial pride in your 
efficiency and success, They will be quick to accord to you all the honor 
you shall merit by your valor, and see that your rights and feelings are 
respected by other soldiers. I have assured myself on these points, and can 
speak with authority. More than twenty years of unswerving devotion to 
our common cause may give me some humble claim to be trusted at this 
momentous crisis. I will not argue. To do so implies hesitation and doubt, 
and you do not hesitate. You do not doubt. The day dawns; the morn- 
ing star is bright upon the horizon 1 The iron gate of our prison stands 
half open. One gallant rush from the North will fling it wide open, while 
four millions of our brothers and sisters shall march out into liberty. The 
chance is now given you to end in a day the bondage of centuries, and to 
rise in one bound from social degradation to the plane of common equality 
with all other varieties of men. Remember Denmark Vesey of Charleston; 
remember Nathaniel Turner of South Hampton; remember Shields Green 
and Copeland, who followed noble John Brown, and fell as glorious mar- 
tyrs for the cause of the slave. Remember that in a contest with oppres- 
sion, the Almighty has no attribute which can take sides with oppressors. 
The case is before you. This is our golden opportunity. Let us accept it, 
and forever wipe out the dark reproaches unsparingly hurled against us by 
our enemies. Let us win for ourselves the gratitude of our country, and 
the best blessings of our posterity through all time. The nucleus of this 
first regiment is now in camp at Readville, a short distance from Boston. I 
will undertake to forward to Boston all persons adjudged fit to be mustered 
into the regiment, who shall apply to me at any time within the next two 

"Rochester, March 2, 1863." 

Immediately after authority had been given by President 
Lincoln to Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts to 
raise and equip two regiments of colored men for the war, I 
received a letter from George L. Stearns of Boston, a noble 
worker for freedom in Kansas, and a warm friend of John 
Brown, earnestly entreating me to assist in raising the required 
number of men. It was presumed that by my labors in the 
anti-slavery cause, I had gained some influence with the col- 
ored men of the country, and that they would listen to me in 
this emergency ; which supposition, I am happy to say, was 
supported by the results. There were fewer colored people in 

54th and 55th regiments, 381 

Massachusetts then than now, and it was necessary in order 
to make up the full quota of these regiments, to recruit for 
them in other northern States. The nominal conditions upon 
which colored men were asked to enlist, were not satisfactory 
to me or them ; but assurances from Governor Andrew that 
they would in the end be made just and equal, together with 
my faith in the logic of events, and my conviction that the 
wise thing to do was for the colored man to get into the army 
by any door open to him, no matter how narrow, made me 
accept with alacrity the work to which I was invited. The 
raising of these two regiments — the 54th and 55th — and their 
splendid behavior in South and North Carolina was the begin- 
ning of great things for the colored people of the whole coun- 
try ; and not the least satisfaction I now have in contemplat- 
ing my humble part in raising them, is the fact that my two 
sons, Charles and Lewis, were the two first in the State of 
New York to enlist in them. The 54th was not long in the 
field before it proved itself gallant and strong, worthy to rank 
with the most courageous of its white companions in arms. 
Its assault upon Fort Wagner, in which it was so fearfully 
cut to pieces, and lost nearly half its officers, including its 
beloved and trusted commander, Col. Shaw, at once gave it a 
name and a fame throughout the country. In that terrible 
battle, under the wing of night, more cavils in respect of the 
quality of negro manhood were set at rest than could have 
been during a century of ordinary life and observation. After 
that assault we heard no more of sending negroes to garrison 
forts and arsenals, to fight miasma, yellow fever, and small-pox. 
Talk of his ability to meet the foe in the open field, and of 
his equal fitness with the white man to stop a bullet, then 
began to prevail. From this time (and the fact ought to be 
remembered) the colored troops were called upon to occupy 
positions which required the courage, steadiness, and endur- 
ance of veterans, and even their enemies were obliged to 
admit that they proved themselves worthy the confidence 
reposed in them. After the 54th and 55th Massachusetts 


colored regiments were placed in the field, and one of them 
had distinguished itself with so much credit in the hour of 
trial, the desire to send more such troops to the front became 
pretty general. Pennsylvania proposed to raise ten regiments. 
I was again called by my friend Mr. Stearns to assist in raising 
these regiments, and I set about the work with full purpose of 
heart, using every argument of which I was capable, to per- 
suade every colored man able to bear arms to rally around the 
flag, and help to save the country and save the race. It was 
during this time that the attitude of the government at Wash- 
ington caused me deep sadness and discouragement, and 
forced me in a measure to suspend my efforts in that direc- 
tion. I had assured colored men that once in the Union army 
they would be put upon an equal footing with other soldiers ; 
that they would be paid, promoted, and exchanged as prisoners 
of war, Jeff. Davis' threal they would be treated as felons 

to the contrary notwithstanding. But thus far, the govern- 
ment had not kept its promise, or the promise made r it. 
The following letter which I find published in my paper of the 
same date will show the course I felt it my duty to take under 
the circumstances : 

"Rochester. August 1st, 1863. 
"Major George L. Stearns: 

" My Dear Sir — Having declined to attend the meeting to promote enlist- 
ments, appointed for me at Pittsburgh, in present circumstances, I owe you 
a word of explanation. I have hitherto deemed it a dut}', as it certainly has 
been a pleasure, to cooperate with you in the work of raising colored troops 
in the free States to fight the battles of the Republic against slaveholding 
rebels and traitors. Upon the first call you gave me to this work I responded 
with alacrity. I saw, or thought I saw a ray of light, brightening the future 
of my whole race as well as that of our war-troubled country, in arousing 
colored men to fight for the nation's life. I continue to believe in the black 
man's arm, and still have some hope in the integrity of our rulers. Never- 
theless I must for the present leave to others the work of persuading col- 
ored men to join the Union army. I owe it to my long-abused. people, and 
especially to those already in the army, to expose their wrongs and plead 
their cause. I cannot do that in connection with recruiting. When I plead 
for recruits 1 want to do it with all my heart, without qualification. I can- 
not do that now. The impression settles upon me that colored men have 
much over-rated the enlightenment, justice, and generosity of our rulers at 


Washington. In my humble way I have contributed somewhat to that 
false estimate. You know that when the idea of raising colored troops was 
first suggested, the special duty to be assigned them, was the garrisoning of 
forts and arsenals in certain warm, unhealthy, and miasmatic localities in 
the South. They were thought to be better adapted to that service than 
white troops. White troops trained to war, brave, and daring, were to take 
fortifications, and the blacks were to hold them from falling again into the 
hands of the rebels. Three advantages were to arise out of this wise divis- 
ion of labor: 1st, the spirit and pride of white troops was not to waste itself 
in dull monotonous inactivity in fort life ; their arms were to be kept 
bright by constant use. 2d, The health of white troops was to be preserved. 
3d, Black troops were to have the advantage of sound military training and 
to be otherwise useful, at the same time that they should be tolerably secure 
from capture by the rebels, who early avowed their determination to enslave 
and slaughter them in defiance of the laws of war. Two out of the three 
advantages were to accrue to the white troops. Thus far, however, I 
believe that no such diity as holding fortifications has been committed to 
colored troops. They have done far other and more important work than 
holding fortifications. I have no special complaint to make at this point, 
and I simply mention it to strengthen the statement, that from the begin- 
ning of this business it was the confident belief among both the colored and 
white friends of colored enlistments that President Lincoln as commander- 
in-chief of the army and navy, would certainly see to it that his colored 
troops should be so handled and disposed of as to be but little exposed to cap- 
ture by the rebels, and that, if so exposed, as they have repeatedly been from 
the first, the President possessed both the disposition and the means for 
compelling the rebels to respect the rights of such as might fall into their 
hands. The piratical proclamation of Jefferson Davis, announcing slavery 
and assassination to colored prisoners was before the country and the world. 
But men had faith in Mr. Lincoln and his advisers. He was silent to be 
sure, but charity suggested that being a man of action rather than words 
he only waited for a case in which he should be required to act. 
This faith in the man enabled us to speak with warmth and effect in 
urging enlistments among colored men. That faith, my dear sir, 
is now nearly gone. Various occasions have arisen during the last 
six months for the exercise of his power in behalf of the colored men 
in his service. But no word comes to us from the war department, sternly 
assuring the rebel chief that inquisition shall yet be made for innocent blood. 
No word of retaliation when a black man is slain by a rebel in cold blooa. 
No word was said when free men from Massachusetts were caught and sold 
into slavery in Texas. No word is said when brave black men who, accord- 
ing to the testimony of both friend and foe, fought like heroes to plant the 
star-spangled banner on the blazing parapets of Fort Wagner, and in doing 
so were captured, some mutilated and killed, and others sold into slavery. 
The same crushing silence reigns over this scandalous outrage as over that 


of the slaughtered teamsters at Murf reesboro ; the same as over that at 
Milliken's Bend and Vicksburg. I am free to say, my dear sir, that the case 
looks as if the confiding colored soldiers had been betrayed into bloody 
hands by the very government in whose defence they were heroically fight- 
ing. I know what you will say to this; you will say 'wait a little longer, 
and after all the best way to have justice done to your people is to get them 
into the army as fast as you can. ' You may be right in this ; my argument 
has been the same, but have we not already waited, and have we not already 
shown the highest qualities of soldiers, and on this account deserve the pro- 
tection of the government for which we are fighting? Can any case stronger 
than that before Charleston ever arise ! If the President is ever to demand 
justice and humanity, for black soldiers, is not this the time for him to do it? 
How many 54th's must be cut to pieces, its mutilated prisoners killed, and 
its living sold into slavery, to be tortured to death by inches, before Mr. Lin- 
coln shall say, ' Hold, enough 1 ' 

You know the 54th. To you, more than to any one man belongs the 
credit of raising that regiment. Think of its noble *and brave officers liter- 
ally hacked to pieces, while many of its rank and file have been sold into 
slavery worse than death, and pardon me, if I hesitate about assisting in 
raising a fourth regiment until the President shall give the same protection 
to them as to white soldiers. 

With warm and sincere regards, 

Frederick Douglas." 

"Since writing the foregoing letter, which we have now put upon record, 
we have received assurances from Major Stearns that the government of the 
United States is already taking measures which will secure the captured 
colored soldiers at Charleston and elsewhere the same protection against 
slavery and cruelty extended to white soldiers. What ought to have been 
done at the beginning, comes late, but it comes. The poor colored soldiers 
have purchased interference dearly. It really seems that nothing of justice, 
liberty, or humanity can come to us except through tears and blood." 


My efforts to secure just and fair treatment for the colored 
soldiers did not stop at letters and speeches. At the sugges- 
tion of my friend, Major Stearns, to whom the foregoing let- 
ter was addressed, I was induced to go to Washington and 
lay the complaints of my people before President Lincoln and 
the secretary of war ; and to urge upon them such action as 
should secure to the colored troops then fighting for the 
country, a reasonable degree of fair play. I need not say that 
at the time I undertook this mission it required much more 
nerve than a similar one would require now. The distance 


then between the black man and the white American citizen, 
was immeasurable. I was an ex-slave, identified with a 
despised race ; and yet I was to meet the most exalted person 
in this great republic. It was altogether an unwelcome duty, 
and one from which I would gladly have been excused. I 
could not know what kind of a reception would be accorded 
me. I might be told to go home and mind my business, and 
leave such questions as I had come to discuss to be managed 
by the men wisely chosen by the American people to deal 
with them. Or I might be refused an interview altogether. 
Nevetheless, I felt bound to go ; and my acquaintance with 
Senators Charles Sumner, Henry Wilson, Samuel Pomeroy, 
Secretary Salmon P. Chase, Secretary William H. Seward, and 
Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana, encouraged me 
to hope at least for a civil reception. My confidence was fully 
justified in the result. I shall never forget my first interview 
with this great man. I was accompanied to the executive 
mansion and introduced to President Lincoln by Senator Pom- 
eroy. The room in which he received visitors was the one 
now used by the president's secretaries. I entered it with a 
moderate estimate of my own consequence, and yet there I 
was to talk with, and even to advise, the head man of a great 
nation. Happily for me, there was no vain pomp and cere- 
mony about him. I was never more quickly or more com- 
pletely put at ease in the presence of a great man, than in 
that of Abraham Lincoln. He was seated, when I entered, 
in a low arm chair, with his feet extended on the floor, sur- 
rounded by a large number of documents, and several busy 
secretaries. The room bore the marks of business, and the 
persons in it, the president included, appeared to be much 
over-worked and tired. Long lines of care were already 
deeply written on Mr. Lincoln's brow, and his strong face, full 
of earnestness, lighted up as soon as my name was mentioned. 
As I approached and was introduced to him, he rose and ex- 
tended his hand, and bade me welcome. I at once felt myself 
in the presence of an honest man — one whom I could love, 


honor, and trust without reserve or doubt. Proceeding to 
tell him who I was, and what I was doing, he promptly, but 
kindly, stopped me, saying, " I know who you are, Mr. Doug- 
lass ; Mr. Seward has told me all about you. Sit down. I am 
glad to see you." I then told him the object of my visit : that 
I was assisting to raise colored troops ; that several months 
before I had been very successful in getting men to enlist, but 
that now it was not easy to induce the colored men to enter 
the service, because there was a feeling among them that the 
government did not deal fairly with them in several respects. 
Mr. Lincoln asked me to state particulars. I replied that 
there were three particulars which I wished to bring to his 
attention. First, that colored soldiers ought to receive the 
same wages as those paid to white soldiers. Second, that 
colored soldiers ought to receive the same protection when 
taken prisoners, and be exchanged as readily, and on the 
same terms, as any other prisoners, and if Jefferson Davis 
should shoot or hang colored soldiers in cold blood, the United 
States government should retaliate in kind and degree with- 
out delay upon Confederate prisoners in its hands. Third, 
when colored soldiers, seeking the " bauble-reputation at the 
cannon's mouth," performed great and uncommon service on 
the battle-field, they should be rewarded by distinction and 
promotion, precisely as white soldiers are rewarded for like 

Mr. Lincoln listened with patience and silence to all I had 
to say. He was serious and even troubled by what I had 
said, and by what he had evidently thought himself before 
upon the same points. He impressed me with the solid grav- 
ity of his character, by his silent listening not less than by 
his earnest reply to my words. 

He began by saying that the employment of colored troops 
at all was a great gain to the colored people ; that the meas- 
ure could not have been successfully adopted at the beginning 
of the war ; that the wisdom of making colored men soldiers 
was still doubted ; that their enlistment was a serious offenso 


to popular prejudice ; that they had larger motives for being 
soldiers than white men ; that they ought to be willing to 
enter the service upon any conditions ; that the fact that they 
were not to receive the same pay as white soldiers, seemed a 
necessary concession to smooth the way to their employment 
at all as soldiers ; but that ultimately they would receive the 
same. On the second point, in respect to equal protection, 
he said the case was more difficult. Retaliation was a terrible 
remedy, and one which it was very difficult to apply ; one 
which if once begun, there was no telling where it would end ; 
that if he could get hold of the confederate soldiers who had 
been guilty of treating colored soldiers as felons, he could 
easily retaliate, but the thought of hanging men for a crime 
perpetrated by others, was revolting to his feelings. He 
thought that the rebels themselves would stop such barbarous 
warfare, and less evil would be done if retaliation were not 
resorted to. That he had already received information that 
colored soldiers were being treated as prisoners of war. In 
all this I saw the tender heart of the man rather than the 
stern warrior and commander-in-chief of the American army 
and navy, and while I could not agree with him, I could but 
respect his humane spirit. 

On the third point he appeared to have less difficulty, though 
he did not absolutely commit himself. He simply said that he 
would sign any commission to colored soldiers whom his sec- 
retary of war should commend to him. Though I was not 
entirely satisfied with his views, I was so well satisfied with 
the man and with the educating tendency of the conflict, I 
determined to go on with the recruiting. 

From the president, I went to see Secretary Stanton. The 
manner of no two men could be more widely different. I was 
introduced by Assistant Secretary Dana, whom I had known 
many years before at " Brook Farm," Mass., and afterwards as 
managing editor of the New York Tribune. Every line in Mr. 
Stanton's face told me that my communication with him must 
be brief, clear, and to the point ; that he might turn his back 


upon me as a bore at any moment ; that politeness was not 
one of his weaknesses. His first glance was that of a man 
who says, " Well, what do you want ? I have no time to 
waste upon you or any body else, and I shall waste none. 
Speak quick, or I shall leave you." The man and the place 
seemed alike busy. Seeing I had no time to lose, I hastily 
went over the ground I had gone over to President Lincoln. 
As I ended, I was surprised by seeing a changed man before me. 
Contempt and suspicion, and brusqueness, had all disappeared 
from his face and manner, and for a few minutes he made the 
best defense that I had then heard from any body of the treat- 
ment of colored soldiers by the government. I was not satisfied, 
vet I left in the full belief that the true course to the black 
man's freedom and citizenship was over the battle-field, 
and that my business was to get every black man I could 
into the Union armies. Both the President and Secretary of 
War assured me that justice would ultimately be done my 
race, and I gave full faith and credit to their promise. On 
assuring Mr. Stanton of my willingness to take a commission, 
he said he would make me assistant adjutant to General 
Thomas, who was then recruiting and organizing troops in the 
Mississippi valley. He asked me how soon I could be ready. 
I told him in two weeks, and that my commission might be 
sent me to Rochester. For some reason, however, my com- 
mission never came. The government, I fear, was still cling- 
ing to the idea that positions of honor in the service should be 
occupied by white men, and that it would not do to inaugurate 
just then the policy of perfect equality. I wrote to the depart- 
ment for my commission, but was simply told to report to 
General Thomas. This was so different from what I expected 
and from what I had been promised, that I wrote to Secretary 
Stanton that I would report to General Thomas on receipt of 
my commission, but it did not come, and I did not go to the 
Mississippi valley as I had fondly hoped. I knew too much 
of camp life and the value of shoulder straps in the army to 
go into the service without some visible mark of my rank. I 


have no doubt that Mr. Stanton in the moment of our meeting 
meant all he said, but thinking the matter over he felt that 
the time had not then come for a step so radical and aggres- 
sive. Meanwhile my three sons were in the service. Lewis 
and Charles, as already named, in the Massachusetts regiments 
and Frederick recruiting colored troops in the Mississippi 



Proclamation of emancipation — Its reception in Boston — Objections brought 
against it — Its effect on the country — Interview with President Lincoln — 
New York riots — Re-election of Mr. Lincoln — His inauguration, and 
inaugural — Vice-President Johnson — Presidential reception — The fall of 
Richmond — Fanueil Hall — The assassination — Condolence. 

THE first of January, 1863, was a memorable day in the 
progress of American liberty and civilization. It was 
the turning-point in the conflict between freedom and slavery. 
A death blow was then given to the slaveholding rebellion. 
Until then the federal arm had been more than tolerant to 
that relict of barbarism. It had defended it inside the slave 
States ; it had countermanded the emancipation policy of John 
C. Fremont in Missouri; it had returned slaves to their 
so-called owners ; and had threatened that any attempt on the 
part of the slaves to gain their freedom by insurrection, or 
otherwise, would be put down with an iron hand ; it had even 
refused to allow the Hutchinson family to sing their anti- 
slavery songs in the camps of the Army of the Potomac ; it 
had surrounded the houses of slaveholders with bayonets for 
their protection ; and through its secretary of war, William 
H. Seward, had given notice to the world that, " however the 
war for the Union might terminate, no change would be made 
in the relation of master and slave." Upon this pro-slavery 
platform the war against the rebellion had been waged during 
more than two years. It had not been a war of conquest, but 
rather a war of conciliation. McClellan, in command of the 
army, had been trying, apparently, to put down the rebellion 
without hurting the rebels, certainly without hurting slavery, 
and the government had seemed to cooperate with him in both 



respects. Charles Sumner, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell 
Phillips, Gerrit Smith, and the whole anti-slavery phalanx at 
the North, had denounced this policy, and had besought Mr. 
Lincoln to adopt an opposite one, but in vain. Generals, in the 
field, and councils in the Cabinet, had persisted in advancing 
this policy through defeats and disasters, even to the verge of 
ruin. We fought the rebellion, but not its cause. The key 
to the situation was the four million of slaves ; yet the slave 
who loved us, was hated, and the slaveholder who hated us, 
was loved. We kissed the hand that smote us, and spurned 
the hand that helped us. When the means of victory were 
before us, — within our grasp, — we went in search of the means 
of defeat. And now, on this day of January 1st, 1863, the 
formal and solemn announcement was made that thereafter 
the government would be found on the side of emancipation. 
This proclamation changed everything. It gave a new direc- 
tion to the councils of the- Cabinet, and to the conduct of the 
national arms. I shall leave to the statesman, the philoso- 
pher, and historian, the more comprehensive discussion of this 
document, and only tell how it touched me, and those in like 
condition with me at the time. I was in Boston, and its 
reception there may indicate the importance attached to it 
elsewhere. An immense assembly convened in Tremont Tem- 
ple to await the first flash of the electric wires announcing 
the " new departure." Two years of war prosecuted in the 
interests of slavery, had made free speech possible in Boston, 
and we were now met together to receive and celebrate the 
first utterance of the long-hoped-for proclamation, if it came, 
and, if it did not come, to speak our minds freely ; for, in 
view of the past, it was by no means certain that it would 
come. The occasion, therefore, was one of both hope and 
fear. Our ship was on the open sea, tossed by a terrible 
storm ; wa*ve after wave was passing over us, and every hour 
was fraught with increasing peril. Whether we should sur- 
vive or perish, depended in large measure upon the coming of 
this proclamation. At least so we felt. Although the condi- 


tions on which Mr. Lincoln had promised to withhold it, had 
not been complied with, yet, from many considerations, there 
was room to doubt and fear. Mr. Lincoln was known to be a 
man of tender heart, and boundless patience : no man could 
tell to what length he might go, or might refrain from going 
in the direction of peace and reconciliation. Hitherto, he had 
not shown himself a man of heroic measures, and, properly 
enough, this step belonged to that class. It must be the end 
of all compromises with slavery — a declaration that thereafter 
the war was to be conducted on a new principle, with a new 
aim. It would be a full and fair assertion that the govern- 
ment would neither trifle, or be trifled with any longer. But 
would it come ? On the side of doubt, it was said that Mr. 
Lincoln's kindly nature might cause him to relent at the last 
moment ; that Mrs. Lincoln, coming from an old slaveholding 
family, would influence him to delay, and give the slaveholders 
one other chance.* Every moment of waiting chilled our 
hopes, and strengthened our fears. A line of messengers was 
established between the telegraph office and the platform of 
Tremont Temple, and the time was occupied with brief 
speeches from Hon. Thomas Russell of Plymouth, Miss Anna 
E. Dickinson (a lady of marvelous eloquence), Rev. Mr. 
Grimes, J. Sella Martin, William Wells Brown, and myself. 
But speaking or listening to speeches was not the thing for 
which the people had come together. The time for argument 
was passed. It was not logic, but the trump of jubilee, which 
everybody wanted to hear. We were waiting and listening 
as for a bolt from the sky, which should rend the fetters of 
four million of slaves ; we were watching, as it were, by the 
dim light of the stars, for the dawn of a new day ; we were 
longing for the answer to the agonizing prayers of centuries. 
Remembering those in bonds as bound with them, we wanted 
to join in the shout for freedom, and in the anthem of the 

* I have reason to know that this supposition did Mrs. Lincoln great 


Eight, nine, ten o'clock came and went, and still no word. 
A visible shadow seemed falling on the expecting throng, 
which the confident utterances of the speakers sought in vain 
to dispel. At last, when patience was well-nigh exhausted, 
and suspense was becoming agony, a man (I think it was 
Judge Russell) with hasty step advanced through the crowd, 
and with a face fairly illumined with the news he bore, ex- 
claimed in tones that thrilled all hearts, " It is coming I" " It 
is on the wires ! !" The effect of this announcement was 
startling beyond description, and the scene was wild and 
grand. Joy and gladness exhausted all forms of expression 
from shouts of praise, to sobs and tears. My old friend Rue, 
a colored preacher, a man of wonderful vocal power, expressed 
the heartfelt emotion of the hour, when he led all voices in 
the anthem, " Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea, 
Jehovah hath triumphed, his people are free. " About twelve 
o'clock, seeing there was no disposition to retire from the hall, 
which must be vacated, my friend Grimes (of blessed memory), 
rose and moved that the meeting adjourn to the Twelfth Bap- 
tist church, of which he was pastor, and soon that church was 
packed from doors to pulpit, and this meeting did not break 
up till near the dawn of day. It was one of the most affect- 
ing and thrilling occasions I ever witnessed, and a worthy 
celebration of the first step on the part of the nation in its 
departure from the thraldom of ages. 

There was evidently no disposition on the part of this meet- 
ing to criticise the proclamation ; nor was there with any one 
at first. At the moment we saw only its anti-slavery side. 
But further and more critical examination showed it to be 
extremely defective. It was not a proclamation of "liberty 
throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof," such 
as we had hoped it would be ; but was one marked by discrim- 
inations and reservations. Its operation was confined within 
certain geographical and military lines. It only abolished 
slavery where it did not exist, and left it intact where it did 
exist. It was a measure apparently inspired by the law motive 


of military necessity, and by so far as it was so, it would bo- 
come inoperative and useless when military necessity should 
cease. There was much said in this line, and much that was 
narrow and erroneous. For my own part, I took the proc- 
lamation, first and last, for a little more than it purported; 
and saw in its spirit, a life and power far beyond its letter. 
Its meaning to me was the entire abolition of slavery, where- 
ever the evil could be reached by the Federal arm, and I saw 
that its moral power would extend much further. It was in 
my estimation an immense gain to have the war for the Union 
committed to the extinction of Slavery, even from a military 
necessity. It is not a bad thing to have individuals or nations 
do right though they do so from selfish motives. I approved 
the one-spur-wisdom of u Paddy" who thought if he could get one 
side of his horse to go, he could trust the speed of the other side. 

The effect of the proclamation abroad was highly beneficial 
to the loyal cause. Disinterested parties could now see in it 
a benevolent character. It was no longer a mere strife for terri- 
tory and dominion, but a contest of civilization against bar- 

The Proclamation itself was like Mr. Lincoln throughout. 
It was framed with a view to the least harm and the most 
good possible in the circumstances, and with especial consid- 
eration of the latter. It was thoughtful, cautious, and well 
guarded at all points. While he hated Slavery, and really 
desired its destruction, he always proceeded against it in a 
manner the least likely to shock or drive from him any who 
were truly in sympathy with the preservation of the union, 
but who were not friendly to Emancipation. For this he kept 
up the distinction between loyal and disloyal slaveholders, 
and discriminated in favor of the one, as against the other. In 
a word, in all that he did, or attempted, he made it manifest 
that the one great and all commanding object with him, was 
the peace and preservation of the Union, and that this was 
the motive and main spring of aft his measures. His wisdom 
and moderation at this point were for a season useful to the 


loyal cause in the border states, but it may be fairly question- 
ed, whether it did not chill the union ardor of the loyal people 
of the north in some degree, and diminish rather than in- 
crease the sum of our power against the rebellion: for mod- 
erate cautions and guarded as was this proclamation it crea- 
ted a howl of indignation and wrath amongst the rebels 
and their allies. The old cry was raised by the copperhead 
organs of " an abolition war," and a pretext was thus found 
for an excuse for refusing to enlist, and for marshaling all 
the negro prejudice of the north on the rebel side. Men could say 
they were willing to fight for the union, but that they were 
not willing to fight for the freedom of the negroes ; and thus 
it was made difficult to procure enlistments or to enforce the 
draft. This was especially true of New York, where there 
was a large Irish population. The attempt to enforce the 
draft in that city was me4by mobs, riot, and bloodshed. There 
is perhaps no darker chapter in the whole history of the war, 
than this cowardly and bloody uprising in July, 1863. For 
three days and nights New York was in the hands of a fero- 
cious mob, and there was not sufficient power in the govern- 
ment of the country or of the city itself, to stay the hand of 
violence, and the effusion of blood. Though this mob was 
nominally against the draft which had been ordered, it poured 
out its fiercest wrath upon the colored people and their friends. 
It spared neither age nor sex ; it hanged negroes simply be- 
cause they were negroes, it murdered women in their homes, 
and burned their homes over their heads, it dashed out the 
brains of young children against the lamp posts, it burned the 
colored orphan asylum, a noble charity on the corner of 5th 
ave., and scarce allowing time for the helpless two hundred 
children to make good their escape, plundering the building 
of every valuable piece of furniture ; and colored men, women, 
and children were forced to seek concealment in cellars or 
garrets or wheresoever else it could be found until this high 
carnival of crime and reign of terror should pass away. 

In connection with Geo. L. Stearns, Thomas Webster, and 


Col. Wagner, I had been at Camp William Penn, Philadelphia, 
assisting in the work of filling up the colored regiments, and 
was on my way home from there just as these events were 
transpiring in New York. I was met by a friend at Newark 
who informed me of this condition of things. I, however, 
pressed on my way to the Chambers street station of the Hud- 
son River Railroad in safety, the mob being in the upper part 
of the city, fortunately for me, for not only my color, but my 
known activity in procuring enlistments would have made me 
especially obnoxious to its murderous spirit. This was not 
the first time I had been in imminent peril in New York city. 
My first arrival there, after my escape from slavery, was full of 
danger. My passage through its borders after the attack of 
John Brown on Harper's Ferry was scarcely less safe. I had 
encountered Isaiah Rynders and his gang of ruffians in the 
old Broadway Tabernacle at our W^nti-slavery anniversary 
meeting, and I knew something of the crazy temper of such 
crowds ; but this anti-draft — anti-negro mob was something 
more and something worse — it was a part of the rebel force, 
without the rebel uniform, but with all its deadly hate ; it was 
the fire of the enemy opened in the rear of the loyal army. 
Such men as Franklin Pierce and Horatio Seymour had done 
much in their utterances to encourage resistance to the drafts. 
Seymour was then Governor of the State of New York, and 
while the mob was doing its deadly work he addressed them 
as " My friends," telling them to desist then, while he could 
arrange at Washington to have the draft arrested. Had Gov- 
ernor Seymour been loyal to his country, and to his country's 
cause, in this her moment of need, he would have burned his 
tongue with a red hot iron sooner than allow it to call these 
thugs, thieves, and murderers his " friends." 

My interviews with President Lincoln and his able Secre- 
tary, before narrated, greatly increased my confidence in the 
anti-slavery integrity of the government, although I confess I 
was greatly disappointed at my failure to receive the commis- 
sion promised me by Secretary Stanton. I, however, faithfully 

m'clellan and grant. 397 

believed, and loudly proclaimed my belief, tbat the rebellion 
would be suppressed, the Union preserved, the slaves emanci- 
pated, and the colored soldiers would in the end have justice 
done them. This confidence was immeasurably strengthened 
when I saw Gen. George B. McClellan relieved from the com- 
mand of the army of the Potomac and Gen U. S. Grant 
placed at its head, and in command of all the armies of the 
United States. My confidence in Gen. Grant was not entirely 
due to the brilliant military successes achieved by him, but 
there was a moral as well as military basis for my faith in him. 
He had shown his single mindedness and superiority to popu- 
lar prejudice by his prompt co-operation with President Lin- 
coln in his policy of employing colored troops, and his order 
commanding his soldiers to treat such troops with due respect. 
In this way he proved himself to be not only a wise General, 
but a great man — one who could adjust himself to new con- 
ditions, and adopt the lessons taught by the events of the 
hour. This quality in General Grant was and is made 
all the more conspicuous and striking in contrast with 
his West Point education and his former political associations ; 
for neither West Point nor the Democratic party have been 
good schools in which to learn justice and fair play fco the 

It was when General Grant was fighting his way through 
the Wilderness to Richmond, on the " line " he meant to pur- 
sue " if it took all summer," and every reverse to his arms 
was made the occasion for a fresh demand for peace without 
emancipation, that President Lincoln did me the honor to 
invite me to the Executive Mansion for a conference on the 
situation. I need not say I went most gladly. The main 
subject on which he wished to confer with me was as to the 
means most desirable to be employed outside the army to 
induce the slaves in the rebel States to come within the Fed- 
eral lines. The increasing opposition to the war, in the 
north, and the mad cry against it, because it was being made 
an abolition war, alarmed Mr. Lincoln, and made him appr©- 



hensive that a peace might be forced upon him which would 
leave still in slavery all who had not come within our lines. 
What he wanted was to make his proclamation as effective as 
possible in the event of such a peace. He said in a regretful 
tone, " The slaves are not coming so rapidly and so numerously 
to us as I had hoped." I replied that the slaveholders knew 
how to keep such things from their slaves, and probably very 
few knew of his proclamation. "Well," he said, "I want you 
to set about devising some means of making them acquainted 
with it, and for bringing them into our lines." He spoke 
with great earnestness and much solicitude, and seemed 
troubled by the attitude of Mr. Greeley, and the growing 
impatience there was being manifested through the north at 
the war. He said he was being accusi d of protracting the 
war beyond its legitimate object, and of failing to make peace, 
when he might have done so to advantage. He was afraid of 
what might come of all these complaints, but was persuaded 
that no solid and lasting peace could come short of absolute 
submission on the part of the rebels, and he was not for giv- 
ing them rest by futile conferences at Niagara Falls, or else- 
where, with unauthorized persons. He saw the danger of 
premature peace, and, like a thoughtful and 'sagacious man 
as he was, he wished to provide means of rendering such 
consummation as harmless as possible. I was the more 
impressed by this benevolent consideration because he before 
said, in answer to the peace clamor, that his object was to 
save the Union, and to do so with or without slavery. What 
he said on this day showed a deeper moral conviction against 
slavery than I had even seen before in anything spoken or 
written by him. I listened with the deepest interest and pro- 
foundest satisfaction, and, at his suggestion, agreed to under- 
take the organizing a band of scouts, composed of colored 
men, whose business should be somewhat after the original 
plan of John Brown, to go into the rebel States, beyond the 
lines of our armies, and carry the news of emancipation, and 
urge the slaves to come within our boundaries. 


This plan, however, was very soon rendered unnecessary by 
the success of the war in the Wilderness and elsewhere, and 
by its termination in the complete abolition of slavery. 

I refer to this conversation because I think it is evidence 
conclusive on Mr. Lincoln's part that the proclamation, so far 
at least as he was concerned, was not effected merely as a 
" necessity." 

An incident occurred during this interview which illustrates 
the character of this great man, though the mention of it may 
savor a little of vanity on my part. While in conversation 
with him his Secretary twice announced " Governor Bucking- 
ham of Connecticut," one of the noblest and most patriotic of 
the loyal Governors. Mr. Lincoln said, " Tell Governor Buck- 
ingham to wait, for I want to have a long talk with my friend 
Frederick Douglass." I interposed, and begged him to see 
the Governor at once, as I could wait; but no, he persisted 
he wanted to talk with me, and Governor Buckingham could 
wait. This was probably the first time in the history of this 
Republic when its chief magistrate found occasion or disposi- 
tion to exercise such an act of impartiality between persons 
so widely different in their positions and supposed claims upon 
his attention. From the manner of the Governor, when he 
was finally admitted, I inferred that he was as well satisfied 
with what Mr. Lincoln had done, or had omitted to do, as I 

I have often said elsewhere what I wish to repeat here, that 
Mr. Lincoln was not only a great President, but a great 
man — too great to be small in anything. In his company I 
was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of 
my unpopular color. While I am, as it may seem, bragging 
of the kind consideration which I have reason to believe that 
Mr. Lincoln entertained towards me, I may mention one thing 
more. At the door of my friend John A. Gray, where I was 
stopping in Washington, I found one afternoon the carriage 
of Secretary Dole, and a messenger from President Lincoln 
with an invitation for me to take tea with him at the Soldiers 


Home, where he then passed his nights, riding out after the 
business of the day was over at the Executive Mansion. 
Unfortunately I had an engagement to speak that evening, and 
having made it one of the rules of my conduct in life never 
to break an engagement if possible to keep it, I felt obliged to 
decline the honor. I have often regretted that I did not make 
this an exception to my general rule. Could I have known that 
no such opportunity could come to me again, I should have jus- 
tified myself in disappointing a large audience for the sake of 
such a visit with Abraham Lincoln. 

It is due perhaps to myself to say here that I did not take 
Mr. Lincoln's attentions as due to my merits or personal qual- 
ities. While I have no doubt that Messrs. Seward and Chase 
had spoken well of me to him, and the fact of my having been 
a slave, and gained my freedom, and of having picked up 
some sort of an education, and being in some sense a " self- 
made man," and having made myself useful as an advocate of 
the claims of my people, gave me favor in his eyes ; yet I am 
quite sure that the main thing which gave me consideration 
with him was my well known relation to the colored people of 
the Republic, and especially the help which that relation 
enabled me to give to the work of suppressing the rebellion 
and of placing the Union on a firmer basis than it ever had or 
could have sustained in the days of slavery. 

So long as there was any hope whatsoever of the success of 
Rebellion, there was of course a corresponding fear that a new 
lease of life would be granted to slavery. The proclamation 
of Fremont in Missouri, the letter of Phelps in the Depart- 
ment of the Gulf, the enlistment of colored troops by Gen. 
Hunter, the " Contraband " letter of Gen. B. F. Butler, the 
soldierly qualities surprisingly displayed by colored soldiers in 
the terrific battles of Port Hudson, Vicksburg, Morris Island, 
and elsewhere, the Emancipation proclamation by Abraham 
Lincoln had given slavery many and deadly wounds, yet it 
was in fact only wounded and crippled, not disabled and 
killed. With this condition of national affairs came the sum- 


mer of 1864, and with it the revived Democratic party, with 
the story in its mouth that the war was a failure, and with 
Gen. George B. McClellan, the greatest failure of the war, as 
its candidate for the Presidency. It is needless to say that 
the success of such a party, on such a platform, with such a 
candidate, o v ^ch a time would have been a fatal calamity. 
All that had been done towards suppressing the rebellion and 
abolishing slavery would have proved of no avail, and the 
final settlement between the two sections of the Republic, 
touching slavery and the right of secession, would have been 
left to tear and rend the country again at no distant future. 

It was said that this Democratic party, which under Mr. 
Buchanan had betrayed the Government into the hands of 
secession and treason, was the only party which could restore 
the country to peace and union. No doubt it would have 
" patched up " a peace, but it would have been a peace more 
to be dreaded than war. So at least I felt and worked. 
When we were thus asked to exchange Abraham Lincoln for 
McClellan — a successful Union President for an unsuccessful 
Union General — a party earnestly endeavoring to save the 
Union, torn and rent by a gigantic rebellion, I thought with 
Mr. Lincoln, that it was not wise to " swap horses while cross- 
ing a stream.'' Regarding, as I did, the continuance of the 
war to the complete suppression of the rebellion, and the 
retention in office of President Lincoln as essential to the 
total destruction of slavery, I certainly exerted myself to the 
uttermost, in my small way, to secure his re-election. This 
most important object was not attainted, however, by speeches, 
letters, or other electioneering appliances. The staggering 
blows dealt upon the rebellion that year by the armies under 
Grant and Sherman, and his own great character, ground all 
opposition to dust, and made his election sure, even before the 
question reached the polls. Since William the Silent, who 
was the soul of the mighty war for religious liberty against 
Spain and the Spanish inquisition, no leader of men has been 
loved and trusted in such generous measure as Abraham Lincoln. 

402 Lincoln's inauguration. 

His election silenced, in a good degree, the discontent felt at 
tho length of the war, and the complaints of its being an 
Abolition war. Every victory of our arms, on flood and field, 
was a rebuke io McClellan and the Democratic party, and an 
endorsement of Abraham Lincoln for President, and his new 
policy. It was my good fortune to be present at his inaugura- 
tion in March, and to hear on that occasion his remarkable 
inaugural address. On the night previous I took tea with 
Chief Justice Chase, and assisted his beloved daughter, Mrs. 
Sprague, in placing over her honored father's shoulders the 
new robe, then being made, in which he was to administer the 
oath of office to the re-elected President. There was a dignity 
and grandeur about the Chief Justice which marked him as one 
born great. He had known me in early anti-slavery days, and 
had conquered his race-prejudice, if he ever had any ; at any 
rate, he had welcomed me to his home and his table, when to do 
so was a strange thing in Washington ; and the fact was by no 
means an insignificant one. 

The inauguration, like the election, was a most important 
event. Four years before, after Mr. Lincoln's first election, 
the pro-slavery spirit determined against his inauguration, 
and it no doubt would have accomplished its purpose had lie 
attempted to pass openly and recognized through Baltimore. 
There was murder in the air then, and there was murder in 
the air now. His first inauguration arrested the fall of the 
Republic, and the second was to restore it to enduring foun- 
dations. At the time of the second inauguration the rebellion 
was apparently vigorous, defiant, and formidable; but in 
reality weak, dejected, and desperate. It had reached that 
verge of madness when it had called upon the negro for help 
to fight against the freedom which he so longed to find, for 
the bondage he would escape — against Lincoln the Emancipa- 
tor for Davis the enslaver. But desperation discards logic as 
well as law, and the South was desperate. Sherman was 
marching to the sea, and Virginia with its rebel capital was 
in the firm grip of Ulysses S. Grant. To those who knew the 


situation it was evident that unless some startling change was 
made the confederacy had but a short time to live, and that 
time full of misery. This condition of things made the air at 
Washington dark and lowering. The friends of the confeder- 
ate cause here were neither few nor insignificant. They were 
among the rich and influential. A wink or a nod from such 
men might unchain the hand of violence and set order and 
law at defiance. To those who saw beneath the surface it 
was clearly perceived that there was danger abroad; and as 
the procession passed down Pennsylvania Avenue, I for one 
felt an instinctive apprehension that at any moment a shot 
from some assassin in the crowd might end the glittering 
pageant, and throw the country into the depths of anarchy. 
I did not then know, what has since become history, that the 
plot was already formed and its execution contemplated for 
that very day, which though several weeks delayed, at last 
accomplished its deadly work. Reaching the Capitol, I took 
my place in the crowd where I could see the Presidential pro- 
cession as it came upon the east portico, and where I could 
hear and see all that took place. There was no such throng 
as that which celebrated the inauguration of President Gar- 
field, nor that of President Rutherford B. Hayes. The whole 
proceeding was wonderfully quiet, earnest, and solemn. From 
the oath, as administered by Chief Justice Chase, to the brief 
but weighty address delivered by Mr. Lincoln, there was a leaden 
stillness about the crowd. The address sounded more like a 
sermon than a state paper. In the fewest words possible it 
referred to the condition of the country four years before, on 
his first accession to the presidency — to the causes of the war, 
and the reasons on both sides for which it had been waged. 
"Neither party," he said, " expected for the war the magnitude 
or the duration which it had already attained. Neither antici- 
pated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even 
before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an 
easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding." 
Then in a few short sentences, admitting the conviction that 

404 president Lincoln's address. 

slavery had been the "offense which, in the providence of 
God, must needs come, and the war as the woe due to those 
by whom the offense came," he asks if there can be " discerned 
in this, any departure from those Divine attributes which the 
believers in a loving God always ascribe to him ? Fondly do 
we hope," he continued, "fervently do we pray that this 
mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God 
wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bond- 
man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be 
sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall 
be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three 
thousand years ago, so still it must be said, 'The judgments 
of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.' 

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firm- 
ness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive 
to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, 
to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his 
widow and his orphans, to do all which may achieve and 
cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all 

I know not how many times, and before how many people I 
have quoted these solemn words of our martyred president; 
they struck me at the time, and have seemed to me ever since 
to contain more vital substance than I have ever seen com- 
pressed in a space so narrow ; yet on this memorable occasion 
when I clapped my hands in gladness and thanksgiving at 
their utterance, I saw in the faces of many about me expres- 
sions of widely different emotion. 

On this inauguration day, while waiting for the opening of 
the ceremonies, I made a discovery in regard to the Vice- 
President — Andrew Johnson. There "are moments in the 
lives of most men, when the doors of their souls are open, and 
unconsciously to themselves, their true characters may be 
read by the observant eye. It was at such an instant I caught 
a glimpse of the real nature of this man, which all subsequent 
developments proved true. I was standing in the crowd hj 


the side of Mrs. Thomas J. Dorsey, when Mr. Lincoln touched 
Mr. Johnson, and pointed me out to him. The first expression 
which came to his face, and which I think was the true index 
of his heart, was one of bitter contempt and aversion. Seeing 
that I observed him, he tried to assume a more friendly ap- 
pearance ; but it was too late ; it was useless to close the door 
when all within had been seen. His first glance was the 
frown of the man, the second was the bland and sickly smile 
of the demagogue. I turned to Mrs. Dorsey and said, "What- 
ever Andrew Johnson may be, he certainly is no friend of our 

No stronger contrast could well be presented between two 
men than between President Lincoln and Vice-President John- 
son on this day. Mr. Lincoln was like one who was treading 
the hard and thorny path of duty and self-denial ; Mr. Johnson 
was like one just from a drunken debauch. The face of the 
one was full of manly humility, although at the topmost height 
of power and pride, the other was full of pomp and swaggering 
vanity. The fact was, though it was yet early in the day, 
Mr. Johnson was drunk. 

In the evening of the day of the inauguration, another new 
experience awaited me. The usual reception was given at the 
executive mansion, and though no colored persons had ever 
ventured to present themselves on such occasions, it seemed 
now that freedom had become the law of the republic, now 
that colored men were on the battle-field mingling their blood 
with that of white men in one common effort to save the 
country, it was not too great an assumption for a colored man 
to offer his congratulations to the President with those of 
other citizens. I decided to go, and sought in vain for some 
one of my own color to accompany me. It is never an agree- 
able experience to go where there can be any doubt of wel- 
come, and my colored friends had too often realized discom- 
fiture from this cause to be willing to subject themselves to 
such unhappiness ; they wished me to go, as my New England 
colored friends in the long ago liked very well to have me 


take passage on the first-class cars, and be hauled out and 
pounded by rough-handed brakemen, to make way for them. 
It was plain, then, that some one must lead the way, and that 
if the colored man would have his rights, he must take them ; 
and now, though it was plainly quite the thing for me to at- 
tend President Lincoln's reception, " they all with one accord 
began to make excuse." It was finally arranged that Mrs. 
Dorsey should bear me company, so together we joined in the 
grand procession of citizens from all parts of the country, and 
moved slowly towards the executive mansion. I had for some 
time looked upon myself as a man, but now in this multitude 
of the dlite of the land, I felt myself a man among men. I 
regret to be obliged to say, however, that this comfortable 
assurance was not of long duration, for on reaching the door, 
two policemen stationed there took me rudely by the arm and 
ordered me to stand back, for their directions were to admit 
no persons of my color. The reader need not be told that 
this was a disagreeable set-back. But once in the battle, I 
did not think it well to submit to repulse. I told the officers 
I was quite sure there must be some mistake, for no such 
order could have emanated from President Lincoln ; and if he 
knew I was at the door he would desire my admission. They 
then, to put an end to the parley, as I suppose, for we were ob- 
structing the door way, and were not easily pushed aside, 
assumed an air of politeness, and offered to conduct me in. 
We followed their lead, and soon found ourselves walking 
some planks out of a window, which had been arranged as a 
temporary passage for the exit of visitors. We halted so soon 
as we saw the trick, and I said to the officers: "You have 
deceived me. I shall not go out of this building till I see 
President Lincoln." At this moment a gentleman who was 
passing in, recognized me, and I said to him: "Be so kind as 
to say to Mr. Lincoln that Frederick Douglass is detained 
by officers at the door." It was not long before Mrs. Dorsey 
and I walked into the spacious East Room, amid a scene of 
elegance such as in this country I had never witnessed before. 

author's opinion op the address. 407 

Like a mountain pine high above all others, Mr. Lincoln stood, 
in his grand simplicity, and home-like beauty. Recognizing 
me, even before I reached him, he exclaimed, so that all 
around could hear him, "Here comes my friend Douglass." 
Taking me by the hand, he said, " I am glad to see you. I 
saw you in the crowd to-day, listening to my inaugural ad- 
dress; how did you like it?" I said, " Mr. Lincoln, I must not 
detain you with my poor opinion, when there are thousands 
waiting to shake hands with you." "No, no," he said, "you 
must stop a little, Douglass ; there is no man in the country 
whose opinion I value more than yours. I want to know what 
you think of it?" I replied, "Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred 
effort." " I am glad you liked it! " he said, and I passed on, 
feeling that any man, however distinguished, might well re- 
gard himself honored by such expressions, from such a man. 
It came out that the officers at the White House had 
received no orders from Mr. Lincoln, or from any one else. 
They were simply complying with an old custom, the out- 
growth of slavery, as dogs will sometimes rub their necks, 
long after their collars are removed, thinking they are still 
there. My colored friends were well pleased with what had 
seemed to them a doubtful experiment, and I believe were 
encouraged by its success to follow my example. I have 
found in my experience that the way to break down an 
unreasonable custom, is to contradict it in practice. To be 
sure in pursuing this course I have had to contend not merely 
with the white race, but with the black. The one has con- 
demned me for my presumption in daring to associate with 
them, and the other for pushing myself where they take it for 
granted I am not wanted. I am pained to think that the latter 
objection springs largely from a consciousness of inferiority, 
for as colors alone can have nothing against each other, and 
the conditions of human association are founded upon 
character rather than color, and character depends upon mind 
and morals, there can be nothing blame-worthy in people thus 
equal in meeting each other on the plain of civil or social 


A series of important events followed soon after the second 
inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, conspicuous amongst which was 
the fall of Richmond. The strongest endeavor, and the best 
generalship of the Rebellion was employed to hold that place, 
and when it fell the pride, prestige, and power of the rebellion 
fell with it, never to rise again. The news of this great 
event found me again in Boston. The enthusiasm of that 
loyal City cannot be easily described. As usual when any- 
thing touches the great heart of Boston, Faneuil Hall became 
vocal and eloquent. This Hall is an immense building, and 
its history is correspondingly great. It has been the theatre 
of much patriotic declamation from the days of the " Revolu- 
tion " and before ; as it has since my day been the scene, 
where the strongest efforts of the most popular orators of 
Massachusetts have been made. Here Webster the great 
" expounder " addressed the " sea of upturned faces." Here 
Choate, the wonderful Boston barrister, by his weird, electric 
eloquence, enchained his thousands ; here Everett charmed 
with his classic periods the flower of Boston aristocracy ; and 
here, too, Charles Sumner, Horace Mann, John A. Andrew, 
and Wendell Phillips, the last superior to most, and equal to 
any, have for forty years spoken their great words for justice, 
liberty, and humanity, sometimes in the calm and sunshine of 
unruffled peace, but oftener in the tempest and whirlwind of 
mobocratic violence. It was here that Mr. Phillips made his 
famous speech in denunciation of the murder of Elijah P. 
Lovejoy in 1837, which changed the whole current of his life 
and made him pre-eminently the leader of anti-slavery thought 
in New England. Here too Theodore Parker, whose early 
death not only Boston, but the lovers of liberty throughout 
the world, still mourn, gave utterance to his deep and life- 
giving thoughts In words of fullness and power. But I set 
out to speak of the meeting which was held there, in celebra- 
tion of the fall of Richmond, for it was a meeting as remark- 
able for its composition, as for its occasion. Among the 
speakers by whom it was addressed, and who gave voice to 


the patriotic sentiments which filled and overflowed each 
loyal heart, were Hon. Henry Wilson, and Hon. Robert C. 
Winthrop. It would be difficult to find two public men more 
distinctly opposite than these. If any one may properly boast 
an aristocratic descent, or if there be. any value or worth in 
that boast, Robert C. Winthrop may without undue presump- 
tion, avail himself of it. He was born in the midst of wealth 
and luxury, and never felt the flint of hardship or the grip 
of poverty. Just the opposite to this was the experience of 
Henry Wilson. The son of common people, wealth and 
education had done little for him ; but he had in him a true 
heart, and a world of common sense ; and these with industry, 
good habits, and perseverance, had carried him further and 
lifted him higher, than the brilliant man with whom he formed 
such striking contrast. Winthrop, before the war, like many 
others of his class, had resisted the anti-slavery current of his 
state, had sided largely with the demands of the slave power, 
had abandoned many of his old whig friends, when they went 
for free soil and free men in 1848, and gone into the demo- 
cratic party. 

During the war he was too good to be a rebel sympathizer, 
and not quite good enough to become as Wilson was — a power 
in the union cause. Wilson had risen to eminence by his 
devotion to liberal ideas, while Winthrop had sunken almost 
to obscurity from his indifference to such ideas. But now 
either himself or his friends, most likely the latter, thought 
that the time had come when some word implying interest in 
the loyal cause should fall from his lips. It was not so much 
the need of the union, as the need of himself, that he should 
speak ; the time when the union needed him, and all others, 
was when the slave-holding rebellion raised its defiant head, 
not when as now, that head was in the dust and ashes of 
defeat and destruction. But the beloved Winthrop, the proud 
representative of what Daniel Webster once called the " solid 
men of Boston," had great need to speak now. It had been 
no fault of the loyal cause that he had not spoken sooner. 

* See Note on page 413, 


Its "gates like those of Heaven stood open night and day." 
If he did not come in, it was his own fault. Regiment after 
regiment, brigade after brigade, had passed over Boston Com- 
mon to endure the perils and hardships of war; Governor 
Andrew had poured out his soul, and exhausted his wonderful 
powers of speech in patriotic words to the brave departing 
sons of old Massachusetts, and a word from Winthrop would 
have gone far to nerve up those young soldiers going forth to 
lay down their lives for the life of the republic ; but no word 
came. Yet now in the last quarter of the eleventh hour, 
when the days' work was nearly done, Robert C. Winthrop 
was seen standing upon the same platform with the veteran 
Henry "Wilson. He was there in all his native grace and dig- 
nity, elegantly and aristocratically clothed, his whole bearing 
marking his social sphere as widely different from many pres- 
ent. Happy for his good name, and for those who shall bear 
it when he is no longer among the living, that he was found 
even at the last hour, in the right place — in old Faneuil Hall 
— side by side with plain Henry Wilson — the shoemaker sen- 
ator. But this was not the only contrast on that platform on 
that day. It was my strange fortune to follow Mr. Winthrop 
on this interesting occasion. I remembered him as the guest 
of John H. Clifford of New Bedford, afterwards Governor of 
Massachusetts, when twenty -five years before, I had been onjy 
a few months from slavery — I was behind his chair as waiter, 
and was even then charmed by his elegant conversation — and 
now after this lapse of time, I found myself no longer behind 
the chair of this princely man, but announced to succeed him 
in the order of speakers, before that brilliant audience. I was 
not insensible to the contrast in our history and positions, and 
was curious to observe if it effected him, and how. To his 
credit I am happy to say he bore himself grandly throughout. 
His speech was fully up to the enthusiasm of the hour, and 
the great audience greeted his utterances with merited ap- 
plause. I need not speak of the speeches of Henry Wilson 
and others, or of my own. The meeting was every way a 


remarkable expression of popular feeling, created by a great 

and important event. 

After the fall of Richmond the collapse of the rebellion was 
not long delayed, though it did not perish without adding to 
its long list of atrocities one which sent a thrill of horror 
throughout the civilized world, in the assassination of Abraham 
Lincoln ; a man so amiable, so kind, humane, and honest, that 
one is at a loss to know how he could have had an enemy on 
earth. The details of his "taking off" are too familiar to be 
more than mentioned here. The recently attempted assassin- 
ation of James Abraham Garfield has made us all too pain- 
fully familiar with the shock and sensation produced by the 
hell-black crime, to make any description necessary. The 
curious will note that the Christian name of both men is the 
same, and that both were remarkable for their kind qualities, 
and for having risen by their own energies from among the 
people, and that both were victims of assassins at the begin- 
ning of a presidential term. 

Mr. Lincoln had reason to look forward to a peaceful and 
happy term of office. To all appearance, we were on the eve 
of a restoration of the union, and a solid and lasting peace. 
He had served one term as President of the Disunited States, 
he was now for the first time to be President of the 
United States. Heavy had been his burden, hard had been 
his toil, bitter had been his trials, and terrible had been his 
anxiety ; but the future seemed now bright and full of hope. 
Richmond had fallen, Grant had General Lee and the army of 
Virginia firmly in his clutch ; Sherman had fought and found 
his way from the banks of the great river to the shores 
of the sea, leaving the two ends of the rebellion squirming 
and twisting in agony, like the severed parts of a serpent, 
doomed to inevitable death ; and now there was but a little 
time longer for the good President to bear his burden, and be 
the target of reproach. His accusers, in whose opinion he 
was always too fast or too slow, too weak or too strong, too 
conciliatory or too aggressive, would soon become his admir- 


ers ; it was soon to be seen that he had conducted the affairs 
of the nation with singular wisdom, and with absolute fidelity 
to the great trust confided in him. A- country, redeemed and 
regenerated from the foulest crime against human nature that 
ever saw the sun ! What a bright vision of peace, prosperity, and 
and happiness must have come to that tired and over-worked 
brain, and weary spirit. Men used to talk of his jokes, and he no 
doubt indulged them, but I seemed never to have the faculty of 
calling them to the surface. I saw him oftener than many who 
have reported him, but I never saw any levity in him. He 
always impressed me as a strong, earnest man, having no time 
or disposition to trifle ; grappling with all his might the work 
lie had in hand. The expression of his face was a blending of 
suffering with patience and fortitude. Men called him homely, 
and homely he was ; but it was manifestly a human homeli- 
ness, for there was nothing of the tiger or other wild animal 
about him. His eyes had in them the tenderness of mother- 
hood, and his mouth and other features the highest perfection 
of a genuine manhood. His picture, now before me in my 
study, by Marshall, corresponds well with the impression I 
have of him. But, alas ! what are all good and great quali- 
ties; what are human hopes and human happiness to the 
revengeful hand of an assassin ? What are swee^ dreams of 
peace; what are visions of the future? A simple leaden bul- 
let, and a few grains of powder, in the shortest limit of time, 
are sufficient to blast and ruin all that is precious in human 
existence, not alone of the murdered, but of the murderer. 
I write this in the deep gloom flung over my spirit by the cruel, 
wanton, and cold-blooded attempted assassination of Abraham 
Garfield, as well as that of Abraham Lincoln. 

I was in Rochester, N. Y., where I then resided, when news 
of the death of Mr. Lincoln was received. Our citizens, not 
knowing what else to. do in the agony of the hour, betook 
themselves to the City Hall. Though all hearts ached for 
utterance, few felt like speaking. We were stunned and over- 
whelmed by a crime and calamity hitherto unknown to our 

doctor robinson's speech. 413 

country and our government. The hour was hardly one for 

speech, for no speech could rise to the level of feeling. Doctor 

Robinson, then of Rochester University, but now of Brown 

University, Providence, R. L, was prevailed upon to take the 

stand, and made one of the most touching and eloquent 

speeches I ever heard. At the close of his address, I was 

called upon, and spoke out of the fullness of my heart, and, 

happily, I gave expression to so much of the soul of the people 

present, that my voice was several times utterly silenced by 

the sympathetic tumult of the great audience. I had resided 

long in Rochester, and had made many speeches there which 

had more or less touched the hearts of my hearers, but never 

till this day was I brought into such close accord with them. 

We shared in common a terrible calamity, and this " touch of 

nature, made us," more than countrymen, it made us "kin." 

* I sincerely regret that I have done Mr. Winthrop great injustice. This 
Faneuil Hall speech of his was not the first manifestation of his zealous in- 
terest in the loyal cause duringthe late war. While it is quite true that Mr. 
Winthrop was strongly against the anti-slavery movement at the North, his 
addresses and speeches delivered during the war, as they have come to my 
knowledge since writing the foregoing chapter, prove him to have been 
among the most earnest in his support of the National Government in its 
efforts to suppress the rebellion and to restore the Union. 

Frederick Douglas. 



Satisfaction and anxiety — New fields of labor opening — Lyceums and col- 
leges soliciting addresses — Literary attractions — Pecuniary t ain — Still 
pleading for human rights — President Andy Johnson — Colored delegation 
— Their reply to him — National Loyalist Convention, 1866, and its proces- 
sion — Not wanted — Meeting with an old friend — Joy and surprise — The 
old master's welcome, and Miss Amanda's friendship — Enfranchisement 
discussed — its accomplishment — The negro a citizen. 

WHEN the war for the union was substantially ended, 
and peace had dawned upon the land as was the 
case almost immediately after the tragic death of President 
Lincoln ; when the gigantic system of American slavery which 
had defied the march of time, resisted all the appeals and 
arguments of the abolitionists, and the humane testimonies of 
good men of every generation during two hundred and fifty 
years, was finally abolished and forever prohibited by the 
organic law of the land; a strange and, perhaps, perverse 
feeling came over me. My great and exceeding joy over 
these* stupendous achievements, especially over the abolition of 
slavery (which had been the deepest desire and the great 
labor of my life), was slightly tinged with a feeling of sadness. 
I felt I had reached the end of the noblest and best part of 
my life ; my school was broken up, my church disbanded, and 
the beloved congregation dispersed, never to come together 
again. The anti-slavery platform had performed its work, 
and my voice was no longer needed. "Othello's occupation 
was gone." The great happiness of meeting with my fellow- 
workers was now to be among the things of memory. ' Then, 
too, some thought of my personal future came in. Like 
Daniel Webster, when asked by his friends to leave John 
Tyler's Cabinet, I naturally inquired: "Where shall I go?" 



I was still in the midst of my years, and had something of life 
before me, and as the minister urged by my old friend George 
Bradburn to preacli anti-slavery, when to do so was unpopular, 
said, " It is necessary for ministers to live," I felt it was neces- 
sary for me to live, and to live honestly. But where should I 
go, and what should I do ? I could not now take hold of life 
as I did when I first landed in New Bedford, twenty-live years 
before : I could not go to the wharf of either Gideon or George 
Howland, to Richmond's brass foundry, or Richetson's candle 
and oil works, load and unload vessels, or even ask Governor 
Clifford for a place as a servant. Rolling oil casks and 
shoveling coal were all well enough when I was younger, 
immediately after getting out of slavery. Doing this was a 
step up, rather than a step down; but all these avocations had 
had their day for me, and I had had my day for- them. My 
public life and labors had unfitted me for the pursuits of my 
earlier years, and yet had not prepared me for more congenial 
and higher employment. Outside the question of slavery my 
thoughts had not been much directed, and I could hardly hope 
to make myself useful in any other cause than that to which I 
had given the best twenty-five years of my life. A man in the 
situation I found myself, has not only to divest himself of the 
old, which is never easily done, but to adjust himself to the 
new, which is still more difficult. Delivering lectures under 
various names, John B. Gough says, " whatever may be the 
title, my lecture is always on Temperance;" and such is apt 
to be the case with any man who has devoted his time and 
thoughts to one subject for any considerable length of time. 
But what should I do, was the question ? I had a few thou- 
sand dollars (a great convenience, and one not generally 
so highly prized by my people as it ought to be) saved from 
the sale of "my bondage and my freedom," and the proceeds 
of my lectures at home and abroad, and with this sum I 
thought of following the noble example of my old friends 
Stephen and Abby Kelley Foster, purchase a little farm and 
settle myself down to earn an honest living by tilling the soil. 


My children were all grown up, and ought to be able to take 
care of themselves. This question, however, was soon decided 
for me. I had after all acquired (a very unusual thing) a 
little more knowledge and aptitude fitting me for the new con- 
dition of things than I knew, and had a deeper hold upon 
public attention than I had supposed. Invitations began to 
pour in upon me from colleges, lyceums, and literary societies, 
offering me one hundred, and even two hundred dollars for a 
single lecture. 

I had, sometime before, prepared a lecture on " Self-made 
men," and also one upon Ethnology, with special reference to 
Africa. The latter had cost me much labor, though as I now 
look back upon it, it was a very defective production. I wrote 
it at the instance of my friend Doctor M. B. Anderson, Presi- 
dent of Rochester University, himself a distinguished Ethnol- 
ogist, a deep thinker and scholar. I had been invited by one 
of the literary societies of Western Reserve College (then 
at Hudson, but recently removed to Cleveland, Ohio), to 
address it on Commencement day ; and never having spoken 
on such an occasion, never, indeed, having been myself inside 
of a school-house for the purpose of an education, I hesitated 
about accepting the invitation, and finally called upon Prof. 
Henry Wayland, son of the great Doctor Wayland of Brown 
University, and on Doctor Anderson, and asked their advice 
whether I ought to accept. Both gentlemen advised me to do 
so. They knew me, and evidently thought well of my ability. 
But the puzzling question now was, what shall I say if I do go 
there ? It wont do to give them an old-fashioned anti-slavery 
discourse. (I learned afterwards that such a discourse was 
precisely what they needed, though not what they wished ; for 
the faculty, including the President, was in great distress 
because I, a colored man, had been invited, and because of 
the reproach this circumstance might bring upon the College.) 
But what shall I talk about? became the difficult question. 
I finally hit upon the one before mentioned. I had read, when 
in England a few years before, with great interest, parts of 


Doctor Pritchard's "Natural History of Man," a large volume 
marvelously calm and philosophical in its discussion of the 
science of the origin of the races, and was thus in the line of 
my then convictions. I sought this valuable book at once in 
our bookstores, but could not obtain it anywhere in this coun- 
try. I sent to England, where I paid the sum of seven and a 
half dollars for it. In addition to this valuable work, Presi- 
dent Anderson kindly gave me a little book entitled, " Man 
and His Migrations," by Dr. R. G. Latham, and loaned me 
the large work of Dr. Morton the famous Archaeologist, and 
that of Messrs. Nott and Glidden, the latter written evidently 
to degrade the negro and support the then prevalent Calhoun 
doctrine of the rightfulness of slavery. With these books, and 
occasional suggestions from Dr. Anderson and Prof. Wayland, 
I set about preparing my Commencement address. For many 
days and nights I toiled, and succeeded at last in getting 
something together in due form. Written orations had not 
been in my line. I had usually depended upon my unsystem- 
atized knowledge, and the inspiration of the hour and the occa- 
sion ; but I had now got the " scholar bee in my bonnet," and 
supposed that inasmuch as I was to speak to college profes- 
sors and students, I must at least make a show of some fami- 
liarity with letters. It proved, as to its immediate effect, a 
great mistake, for my carefully studied and written address, 
full of learned quotations, fell dead at my feet, while a few 
remarks I made extemporaneously at collation, were enthusias- 
tically received. Nevertheless, the reading and labor expended 
were of much value to me. They were needed steps preparatory 
to the work upon which I was about to enter. If they failed at 
the beginning, they helped to success in the end. My lecture 
on " The Races of Men " was seldom called for, but that on 
" Self-made Men " was in great demand, especially through the 
West. I found that the success of a lecturer depends more 
upon the quality of his stock in store, than the amount. My 
friend, Wendell Phillips (for such I esteem him), who has 
said more cheering words to me, and in vindication of my 


race, than any man now living, has delive/ed his famous lec- 
ture on the " Lost Arts " during the last f orty years ; and I 
doubt if among all his lectures, and he has many, there is one 
in such requisition as this. When Daniel O'Connell was 
asked why he did not make a new speech he playfully replied, 
that " it would take Ireland twenty years to learn his old ones." 
Upon some such consideration as this, I adhered pretty closely 
to my old lecture on " Self-made Men," retouching and shad- 
ing it a little from time to time as occasion seemed to require. 
Here, then, was a new vocation before me, full of advan- 
tages, mentally and pecuniarily. When in the employment of the 
American Anti-Slavery Society, my salary was about four hun- 
dred and fifty dollars a year, and I felt I was well paid for my 
services; but I could now make from fifty to a hundred dollars 
a night, and have the satisfaction, too, that I was in some small 
measure helping to lift my race into consideration; for no 
man who lives at all, lives unto himself ; he either helps or 
hinders all who are in anywise connected with him. I never 
rise to speak before an American audience without something 
of the feeling that my failure or success will bring blame or 
benefit to my whole race. But my activities were not now 
confined entirely to lectures before lyceums. Though slavery 
was abolished, the wrongs of my people were not ended. 
Though they were not slaves they were not yet quite free. 
No man can be truly free whose liberty is dependent upon the 
thought, feeling, and action of others ; and who has himself 
no means in his own hands for guarding, protecting, defend- 
ing, and maintaining that liberty. Yet the negro after his 
emancipation was precisely in this state of destitution. The 
law on the side of freedom is of great advantage only where 
there is power to make that law respected. I know no class 
of my fellowmen, however just, enlightened, and humane, 
which can be wisely and safely trusted absolutely with the 
liberties of any other class. Protestants are excellent people, 
but it would not be wise for Catholics to depend entirely upon 
them to look after their rights and interests. Catholics are a 


pretty good sort of people (though there is a soul-shuddering 
history behind them), yet no enlightened Protestants would 
commit their liberty to their care and keeping. And yet the 
government had left the frcedmen in a worse condition than 
either of these. It felt that it had done enough for him. It had 
made him free, and henceforth he must make his own way in 
the world, or as the slang phrase has it, " Root, pig, or die" ; yet 
he had none of the conditions for self-preservation or self- 
protection. He was free from the individual master, but the 
slave of society. He had neither property, money, nor friends. 
He was free from the old plantation, but he had nothing but 
the dusty road under his feet. He was free from the old 
quarter that once gave him shelter, but a slave to the rains of 
summer and the frosts of winter. He was in a word literally 
turned loose naked, hungry, and destitute to the open sky. The 
first feeling towards him by the old master classes, was full of 
bitterness and wrath. They resented his emancipation as an 
act of hostility towards them, and since they could not punish 
the emancipator, they felt like punishing the object which 
that act had emancipated. Hence they drove him off the old 
plantation, and told him he was no longer wanted there. 
They not only hated him because he had been freed as a pun- 
ishment to them, but because they felt that they had been robbed 
of his labor. An element of greater bitterness still came into 
their hearts : the freedman had been the friend of the Govern- 
ment, and many of his class had borne arms against them 
during the war. The thought of paying cash for labor that 
they could formerly extort by the lash did not in anywise im- 
prove their disposition to the emancipated slave, or improve 
his own condition. Now, since poverty has, and can have no 
chance againt wealth, the landless against the land owner, the 
ignorant against the intelligent, the freedman was powerless. 
He had nothing left him but a slavery-distorted and diseased 
body, and lame and twisted limbs with which to fight the 
battle of life. I, therefore, soon found that the negro had 
still a cause, and that he needed my voice and pen with others 


to plead for it. The American Anti-Slavery Society, under 
the lead of Mr. Garrison, had disbanded, its newspapers were 
discontinued, its agents were withdrawn from the field, and 
all systematic efforts by abolitionists were abandoned. Many 
of the Society, Mr. Phillips and myself amongst the number, 
differed from Mr. Garrison as to the wisdom of this course. 
I felt that the work of the Society was not done, that it had 
not fulfilled its mission, which was not merely to emancipate, 
but to elevate the enslaved class ; but against Mr. Garrison's 
leadership and the surprise and joy occasioned by the emanci- 
pation, it was impossible to keep the association alive, and the 
cause of the freedmen was left mainly to individual effort and 
to hastily extemporized societies of an ephemeral character, 
brought together under benevolent impulse, but having no 
history behind them, and being new to the work, they were 
not as effective for good as the old society would have been 
had it followed up its work and kept its old instrumentalities 
in operation. 

From the first I saw no chance of bettering the condition 
of the freedman, until he should cease to be merely a f reed- 
man, and should become a citizen. I insisted that there was 
no safety for him, or for any body else in America, outside 
the American Government : that to guard, protect, and main- 
tain his liberty, the freedman should have the ballot ; that the 
liberties of the American people were dependent upon the 
Ballot-box, the Jury-box, and the Cartridge-box, that without 
these no class of people could live and flourish in this country, 
and this was now the word for the hour with me, and the 
word to which the people of the north willingly listened when 
I spoke. Hence regarding as I did, the elective franchise as 
the one great power by which all civil rights are obtained, 
enjoyed, and maintained under our form of government, and 
the one without which freedom to any class is delusive if not 
impossible, I set myself to work with whatever force and 
energy I possessed to secure this power for the recently 
emancipated millions. 




The demand for the ballot was such a vast advance upon 
the former objects proclaimed by the friends of the colored 
race, that it startled and struck men as preposterous and 
wholly inadmissible. Anti-slavery men themselves were not 
united as to the wisdom of such demand. Mr. Garrison him- 
self, though foremost for the abolition of slavery, was not yet 
quite ready to join this advanced movement. In this respect 
he was in the rear of Mr. Phillips; who saw not only the 
justice, but the wisdom and necessity of the measure. To 
his credit it may be said, that he gave the full strength of his 
character and eloquence to its adoption. While Mr. Garrison 
thought it too much to ask, Mr. Phillips thought it too little. 
While the one thought it might be postponed to the future, 
the other thought it ought to be done at once. But Mr. 
Garrison was not a man to lag far in the rear of truth and 
right, and he soon came to see with the rest of us that the 
ballot was' essential to the freedom of the freedman. A 
man's head will not long remain wrong, when his heart is 
right. The applause awarded to Mr. Garrison by the conserva- 
tives, for his moderation both in respect of his views on this 
question, and the disbandment of the American Anti-Slavery 
Society must have disturbed him. He was at any rate soon 
found on the right side of the suffrage question. 

The enfranchisement of the freedmen was resisted on 
many grounds, but mainly these two : first the tendency of 
the measure to bring the freedmen into conflict with the old 
master-class, and the white people of the South generally. 
Secondly, their unfitness, by reason of their ignorance, servil- 
ity, and degradation, to exercise so great a power as the ballot, 
over the destinies of this great nation. 

These reasons against the measure which were supposed to 
be unanswerable, were in some sense the most powerful 
arguments in its favor. The argument that the possession 
of suffrage would be likely to bring the negro into conflict 
with the old master-class at the South, had its main force in 
the admission that the interests of the two classes aatagon- 


ized each other and that the maintenance of the one would 
prove inimical to the other. It resolved itself into this, if the 
negro had the means of protecting his civil rights, those who 
had formerly denied him these rights would be offended and 
make war upon him. Experience has shown in a measure 
the correctness of this position. The old master was offended 
to find the negro whom he lately possessed the .right to 
enslave and flog to toil, casting a ballot equal to his own, and 
resorted to all sorts of meanness, violence, and crime, to dis- 
possess him of the enjoyment of this point of equality. In 
this respect the exercise of the right of suffrage by the negro 
has been attended with the evil, which the opponents of the 
measure predicted, and they could say " I've told you so," but 
immeasurably and intolerably greater would have been the 
evil consequences resulting from the denial to one class of this 
natural means of protection, and granting it to the other, and 
hostile class. It would have been, to have committed the 
lamb to the care of the wolf — the arming of one class and 
disarming the other — protecting one interest, and destroying 
the other — making the rich strong, and the poor weak — the 
white man a tyrant, and the black man a slave. The very 
fact therefore that the old master-classes of the South felt 
that their interests were opposed to those of the freedmen, 
instead of being a reason against their enfranchisement, was 
the most powerful one in its favor. Until it shall be safe to 
leave the lamb in the hold of the lion, the laborer in the 
power of the capitalist, the poor in the hands of the rich, it 
will not be safe to leave a newly emancipated people com- 
pletely in the power of their former masters, especially when 
such masters have not ceased to be such from enlightened 
moral convictions but by irresistible force. Then on the part 
of the- Government itself, had it denied this great right to the 
freedmen, it would have been another proof that "Republics 
are ungrateful". It would have been rewarding its enemies, 
and punishing its friends — embracing its foes, and spurning 
its allies, — setting a premium on treason, and degrading 


loyalty. As to the second point, viz.: the negro's ignorance 
and degradation, there was no disputing either. It was the 
nature of slavery from whose depths he had arisen to make 
him so, and it would have kept it so. It was the policy of 
the system to keep him both ignorant and degraded, the better 
and more safely to defraud him of his hard earnings; and 
this argument never staggered me. The ballot in the hands 
of the negro was necessary to open the door of the school 
house, and to unlock the treasures of knowledge to him. 
Granting all that was said of his ignorance, I used to say, 
"if the negro knows enough to fight for his country he 
knows enough to vote ; if he knows enough to pay taxes for 
the support of the government, he knows enough to vote ; if 
he knows as much when sober, as an Irishman knows when 
drunk, he knows enough to vote." 

And now while I am not blind to the evils which have thus 
far attended the enfranchisement of the colored people, I hold 
that the evils from which we escaped, and the good we have 
derived from that act, amply vindicate its wisdom. The evils 
it brought are in their nature temporary, and the good is per- 
manent. The one is comparatively small, the other absolutely 
great. The young child has staggered on his little legs, and 
he has sometimes fallen and hurt his head in the fall, but then 
he has learned to walk. The boy in the water came near 
drowning, but then he has learned to swim. Great changes 
in the relations of mankind can never come, without evils 
analogous to those which have attended the emancipation and 
enfranchisement of the colored people of the United States. 
I am less amazed at these evils, than by the rapidity with 
which they are subsiding and not more astonished at the 
facility with which the former slave has become a free man, 
than at the rapid adjustment of the master-class to the new 

Unlike the movement for the abolition of Slavery, the suc- 
cess of the effort for the enfranchisement of the freedmen 
was not long delayed. It is another illustration of how any 


advance in pursuance of a right principle, prepares and makes 
easy the way to another. The way of transgression is a 
bottomless pit, one step in that direction invites the next, and 
the end is never reached ; and it is the same with the path of 
righteous obedience. Two hundred years ago, the pious 
Doctor Godwin dared affirm that it was "not a sin to baptize 
a negro," and won for him the rite of baptism. It was a 
small concession to his manhood ; but it was strongly resisted 
by the slaveholders of Jamaica, and Virginia. In this they 
were logical in their argument, but they were not logical in their 
object. They saw plainly that to concede the negro's right to 
baptism was to receive him into the Christian Church, and 
make him a brother in Christ; and hence they opposed the 
first step sternly and bitterly. So long as they could keep 
him beyond the circle of human brotherhood, they could 
scourge him to toil, as a beast of burden, with a good Christian 
conscience, and without reproach. "What!" said they, 
"baptize a negro? preposterous!" Nevertheless the negro 
was baptized and admitted to church fellowship ; and though 
for a long time his soul belonged to God, his body to his 
master, and he poor fellow r had nothing left for himself, he is 
at last not only baptized, but emancipated and enfranchised. 

In this achievement, an interview with President Andrew 
Johnson, on the 7th of February, 1866, by a delegation con- 
sisting of George T. Downing, Lewis H. Douglass, Win. E. 
Matthews, John Jones, John F. Cook, Joseph E. Otis, A. W. 
Ross, William Whipper, John M. Brown, Alexander Dunlop, 
and myself, will take its place in history as one of the first steps. 
What was said on that occasion brought the whole question 
virtually before the American people. Until that interview 
the country was not fully aware of the intentions and policy 
of President Johnson on the subject of reconstruction, especi- 
ally in respect of the newly emancipated class of the South. 
After having heard the brief addresses made to him by Mr. 
Downing and myself, he occupied at least three quarters of an 


hour in what seemed a set speech, and refused to listen to any 
reply on our part, although solicited to grant a few moments 
for that purpose. Seeing the advantage that Mr. Johnson 
would have over us in getting his speech paraded before the 
country in the morning papers, the members of the delegation 
met on the evening of that day, and instructed me to prepare 
a brief reply which should go out to the country simultane- 
ously with the President's speech to us. Since this reply in- 
dicates the points of difference between the President and 
ourselves, I produce it here as a part of the history of the 
times, it being concurred in by all the members of the delega- 

Both the speech and the reply were commented upon very 

Mr. President : In consideration of a delicate sense of propriety as well 
as your own repeated intimations of indisposition to discuss or listen to a 
reply to the views and opinions you were pleased to express to us in your 
elaborate speech to-day, the undersigned would respectfully take this method 
•of replying thereto. Believing as we do that the views and opinions you ex- 
pressed in that address are entirely unsound and prejudicial to the highest 
interests of our race as well as our country at large, we cannot do other than 
expose the same, and, as far as may be in our power, arrest their dangerous 
influence: It is not necessary at this time to call attention to more than 
two or three features of your remarkable address : 

1. The first point to which we feel especially bound to take exception, 
is your attempt to found a policy opposed to our enfranchisement, upon the 
alleged ground of an existing hostility on the part of the former slaves, 
toward the poor white people of the South. We admit the existence of this 
hostility, and hold that it is entirely reciprocal. But you obviously commit 
an error by drawing an argument from an incident of slavery, and making 
it a basis for a policy adapted to a state of freedom. The hostility between 
the whites and blacks of the South is easily explained. It has its root and 
sap in the relation of slavery, and was incited on both sides by the cunning 
of the slave masters. Those masters secured their ascendency over both 
the poor whites and blacks by putting enmity between them. 

They divided both to conquer each. There was no earthly reason why 
the blacks should not hate and dread the poor whites when in a state of 
slavery, for it was from this class that their masters received their slave 
catchers, slave drivers, and overseers. They were the men called in upon 
all occasions by the masters, whenever any fiendish outrage was to be com- 
mitted upon the slave. Now, sir, you cannot but perceive, that the cause of 


this hatred removed, the effect must be removed also. Slavery is abolished. 
The cause of this antagonism is removed, and you must see, that it is 
altogether illogical (and "putting new wine into old bottles ") to legislate 
from slaveholding and slave driving premises for a people whom you have 
repeatedly declared your purpose to maintain in freedom. 

2. Besides, even if it were true as you allege, that the hostility of the 
blacks toward the poor whites must necessarily project itself into a state of 
freedom, and that this enmity between the two races is even more intense in 
a state of freedom than in a state of slavery, in the name of Heaven, we 
reverently ask how can you, in view of your professed desire to promote the 
welfare of the black man, deprive him of all means of defence, and clothe 
him whom you regard as his enemy in the panoply of political power ? 
Can it be that you recommend a policy which would arm the strong and 
cast down the defenceless? Can you, by any possibility of reasoning, regard 
this as just, fair, or wise? Experience proves that those are most abused 
who can be abused with the greatest impunity. Men are whipped oflenest 
who are whipped easiest. Peace between races is not to be secured by de- 
grading one race and exalting another, by giving power to one race and 
withholding it from another, but by maintaining a state of equal justice 
between all classes. First pure, then peaceable. 

3. On the colonization theory you were pleased to broach, very much 
could be said. It is impossible to suppose, in view of the usefulness of the 
black man in time of peace as a laborer in the South, and in time of war as 
a soldier at the North, and the growing respect for his rights among the 
people, and his increasing adaptation to a high state of civilization in his 
native land, there can ever come a time when he can be removed from this 
country without a terrible shock to its prosperity and peace. Besides, the 
worst enemy of the nation could not cast upon its fair name a greater infamy 
than to admit that negroes could be tolerated among them in a state of the 
most degrading slavery and oppression, and must be cast away, driven into 
exile, for no other cause than having been freed from their chains. 

Washington, February 7th, 1866. 

From this time onward, the question of suffrage for the freed- 
men, was not allowed to rest. The rapidity with which it 
gained strength, was something quite marvelous and surpris- 
ing even to its advocates. Senator Charles Sumner soon took 
up the subject in the Senate and treated it in his usually able 
and exhaustive manner. It was a great treat to listen to his 
argument running through two days, abounding as it did in 
eloquence, learning, and conclusive reasoning. A committee 
of the Senate had reported a proposition giving to the States 
lately in rebellion in so many words complete option as to the 


enfranchisement of their colored citizens : only coupling with 
that proposition the condition that, to such States as chose to 
enfranchise such citizens, the basis of their representation in 
Qongress should be proportionately increased; or, in other 
words, only three-fifths of the colored citizens should be 
counted in the basis of representation in States where colored 
citizens were not allowed to vote, while in the States granting 
suffrage to colored citizens, the entire colored people should 
be counted in the basis of representation. Against this pro- 
position, myself and associates addressed to the Senate of the 
United States the following memorial: 

"To the honorable the Senate of the United States: 

"The undersigned, being a delegation representing the colored people of 
the several States, and now sojourning in Yfashington, charged with the 
duty to look after the best interests of the recently emancipated, would most 
respectfully, but earnestly, pray your honorable body to favor no amend- 
ment of the Constitution of the United States which will grant any one or 
all of the States of this Union to disfranchise any class of citizens on the 
ground of race or color, for any consideration whatever. They would further 
respectfully represent that the Constitution as adopted by the fathers of the 
Republic in 1789, evidently contemplated the result which has now happened, 
to wit, the abolition of slavery. The men who framed it, and these who 
adopted it, framed and adopted it for the people, and the whole people — col- 
ored men being at that time legal voters in most of the States. In that 
instrument as it now stands, there is not a sentence or a syllable conveying 
any shadow of right or authority by which any State may make color or 
race a disqualification for the exercise of the right of suffrage; and the un- 
dersigned will regard as a real calamity the introduction of any words, 
•xpressly or by implication, giving any State or States such power; and we 
respectfully submit that if the amendment now pending before your honor- 
able body shall be adopted, it will enable any State to deprive any class of 
citizens of the elective franchise, notwithstanding it was obviously framed 
with a view to affect the question of negro suffrage only. 

"For these and other reasons the undersigned respectfully pray that the 
amendment to the Constitution, recently passed by the House and now 
before your body, be not adopted. And as in duty bound, etc." 

It was the opinion of Senator Wm. Pitt Fessenden, Senator 
Henry Wilson, and many others, that the measure here memo- 
rialized against would, if incorporated into the Constitution, 
certainly bring about the enfranchisement of the whole col- 


ored population of the South. It was held by them to be an 
inducement to the States to make suffrage universal, since 
the basis of representation would be enlarged or contracted, 
.ccording as suffrage should be extended or limited ; but the 
idgment of these leaders was not the judgment of Senator 
umner, Senator Wade, Yates, Howe, and others, or of the 
colored people. Yet, weak as this measure was, it encount- 
ered the united opposition of Democratic senators. On that 
side, the Hon. Thomas H. Hendricks of Indiana, took the lead 
in appealing to popular prejudice against the negro. He con- 
tended that among other objectionable and insufferable results 
that would flow from its adoption, would be, that a negro 
would ultimately be a member of the United States Senate. 
I never shall forget the ineffable scorn and indignation with 
which Mr. Hendricks deplored the possibility of such an event. 
In less, however, than a decade from that debate, Senators 
Revels and Bruce, both colored men, had fulfilled the startling 
prophecy of the Indiana senator. It was not, however, by the 
half-way measure, which he was opposing for its radicalism, 
but by the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, that these 
gentlemen reached their honorable positions. 

In defeating the option proposed to be given to the States, 
to extend or deny suffrage to tlie^r colored population, much 
credit is due to the delegation already named as visiting Pres- 
ident Johnson. That delegation made it their business to 
personally see and urge upon leading Republican statesmen 
the wisdom and duty of impartial suffrage. Day after day, 
Mr. Downing and myself saw and conversed with such mem- 
bers of the Senate, whose advocacy of suffrage would be likely 
to insure its success. 

The second marked step in effecting the enfranchisement of 
the negro, was made at the "National Loyalist's Convention," 
held at Philadelphia in September, 1866. This body was 
composed of delegates from the South, North, and West. Its 
object was, to diffuse clear views of the situation of affairs at 
the South, and to indicate the principles deemed advisable by 


it to be observed in the reconstruction of society in the South- 
ern States. 

This convention was, as its history shows, numerously at- 
tended by the ablest and most influential men from all sections 
of the country, and its deliberations participated in by them. 

The policy foreshadowed by Andrew Johnson (who, by the 
grace of the assassin's bullet, was then in Abraham Lincoln's 
seat) — a policy based upon the idea that the rebel States were 
never out of the union, and hence had forfeited no rights 
which his pardon could not restore — gave importance to this 
convention, more than anything which was then occurring at 
the South ; for through the treachery of this bold, bad man, 
we seemed then about to lose nearly all that had been gained 
by the war. 

I was residing in Rochester at the time, and was duly 
elected as a delegate from that city to attend this convention. 
The honor was a surprise and a gratification to me. It was 
unprecedented for a city of over sixty thousand white citi- 
zens and only about two hundred colored residents, to elect a 
colored man to represent them in a national political conven- 
tion, and the announcement of it gave a shock to the country 
of no inconsiderable violence. Many Republicans, with every 
feeling of respect for me personally, were unable to see the 
wisdom of such a course. They dreaded the clamor of social 
equality and amalgamation which would be raised against the 
party, in consequence of this startling innovation. They, dear 
fellows, found it much more agreeable to talk of the principles 
of liberty as glittering generalities, than to reduce those prin- 
ciples to practice. 

When the train on which I was going to the convention 
reached Harrisburgh, it met and was attached to another from 
the West crowded with Western and Southern delegates on 
the way to the convention, and among them were several loyal 
Governors, chief among whom was the loyal Governor of 
Indiana, Oliver P. Morton, a man of Websterian mould in 
all that appertained to mental power. When my presence 


became known to these gentlemen, a consultation was imme- 
diately held among them, upon the question as to what was 
best to do with me. It seems strange now, in view of all the 
progress which has been made, that such a question could 
arise. But the circumstances of the times made me the Jonah 
of the Republican ship, and responsible for the contrary winds 
and misbehaving weather. Before we reached Lancaster, on 
our eastward bound trip, I was duly waited upon by a committee 
of my brother delegates, which had been appointed by other 
honorable delegates, to represent to me the un desirableness 
of my attendance upon the National Loyalist's Convention. 
The spokesman of these sub-delegates was a gentleman from 
New Orleans with a very French name, which has now escaped 
me, but which I wish I could recall, that I might credit him 
with a high degree of politeness and the gift of eloquence. 
He began by telling me that he knew my history and my 
works, and that he entertained a very high respect for me, that 
both himself and the gentlemen who sent him, as well as 
those who accompanied him, regarded me with admiration ; 
that there was not among them the remotest objection to sit- 
ting in the convention with me, but their personal wishes in 
the matter they felt should be set aside for the sake of our 
common cause ; that whether I should or should not go into 
the convention was purely a matter of expediency; that I 
must know that there was a very strong and bitter prejudice 
against my race in the North as well as at the South ; and 
that the cry of social and political equality would not fail to be 
raised against the Republican party if I should attend this loyal 
national convention. He insisted that it was a time for the sac- 
rifice of my own personal feeling, for the good of the Republican 
cause ; that there were several districts in the State of Indiana 
so evenly balanced that a very slight circumstance would be 
likely to turn the scale against us, and defeat our Congres- 
sional candidates, and thus leave Congress without a two- 
thirds vote to control the headstrong and treacherous man 
then in the presidential chair. It was urged that this was a 
terrible responsibility for me or an j other man to take. 


I listened very attentively to this address, uttering no word 
during its delivery ; but when it was finished, I said to the 
speaker and the committee, with all the emphasis I could 
throw into my voice and manner: "Gentlemen, with all 
respect, you might as well ask me to put a loaded pistol t© my 
head and blow my brains out,»as to ask me to keep out of this 
convention, to which I have been duly elected. Then, gentle- 
men, what would you gain by this exclusion ? Would not the 
charge of cowardice, certain to be brought against you, prove 
more damaging than that of amalgamation? Would you not 
be branded all over the land as dastardly hypocrites, profess- 
ing principles which you have no wish or intention of carrying 
out ? As a mere matter of policy or expediency, you will be 
wise to let me in. Everybody knows that I have been duly 
elected as a delegate by the city of Rochester. The fact has 
been broadly announced and commented upon all over the 
country. If I am not admitted, the public will ask, ' Where is 
Douglass? Why" is he not seen in the convention V and you 
would find that enquiry more difficult to answer than any 
charge brought against you for favoring political or social 
equality; but, ignoring the question of policy altogether, and 
looking at it as one of right and wrong, I am bound to go into 
that convention ; not to do so, would contradict the principle 
and practice of my life." With this answer, the committee 
retired from the car in which I was seated, and did not again 
approach me on the subject; but I saw plainly enough then, 
as well as on the morning when the Loyalist procession was 
to march through the streets of Philadelphia, that while I was 
not to be formally excluded, I was to be ignored by the Con- 

I was the ugly and deformed child of the family, and to be 
kept out of sight as much as possible while there was com- 
pany in the house. Especially was it the purpose to offer me 
no inducement to be present in the ranks of the procession of 
its members and friends, which was to start -from Indepen- 
dence Hall on the first morning of its meeting. 


In good season, however, I was present at this grand start- 
ing point. My reception there confirmed my impression as to 
the policy intended to be pursued towards me. Few of the 
many I knew were prepared to give me a cordial recognition, 
and among these few I may mention Gen. Benj. F. Butler, 
who, whatever others may say of him, has always shown 
a courage equal to his convictions. Almost everybody else on 
the ground whom I met seemed to be ashamed or afraid of 
me. On the previous night I had been warned that I should 
not be allowed to walk through the city in the procession ; 
fears had been expressed that my presence in it would so 
shock the prejudices of the people of Philadelphia, as to cause 
the procession to be mobbed. 

The members of the convention were to walk two abreast, 
and as I was the only colored member of the convention, the 
question was, as to who of my brother members would consent 
to walk with me? The answer was nqt long in coming. 
There was one man present who was broad enough to take in 
the whole situation, and brave enough to meet the duty of the 
hour; one who was neither afraid nor ashamed to own me as 
a man and a brother ; one man of the purest Caucasian type, 
a poet and a scholar, brilliant as a writer, eloquent as a 
speaker, and holding a high and influential position — the 
editor of a weekly journal having the largest circulation of 
any weekly paper in the city or State of New York — and that 
man was Mr. Theodore Tilton. He came to me in my isola- 
tion, seized me by the hand in a most brotherly way, and pro- 
posed to walk with me in the procession. 

I have been in many awkward and disagreeable positions in 
my life, when the presence of a friend would have been highly 
valued, but I think I never appreciated an act of courage and 
generous sentiment more highly than I* did of this brave young 
man, when we- marched through the streets of Philadelphia on 
this memorable day. 

Well! what, came of all these dark forebodings of timid 
men? How was my presence regarded by the populace? and 


what effect did it produce ? I will tell* you. The fears of the 
loyal Governors who wished me excluded to propitiate the 
favor of the crowd, met with a signal reproof, their apprehen- 
sions were shown to be groundless, and they were compelled, 
as many of them confessed to me afterwards, to own them- 
selves entirely mistaken. The people were more enlightened 
and had made more progress than their leaders had supposed. 
An act for which those leaders expected to be pelted with 
stones, only brought to them unmeasured applause. Along 
the whole line of march my presence was cheered repeatedly 
and enthusiastically. I was myself utterly surprised by the 
heartiness and unanimity of the popular approval. We were 
marching through a city remarkable for the depth and bitter- 
ness of its hatred of the abolition movement; a city whose 
populace had mobbed anti-slavery meetings, burned temper- 
ance halls and churches owned by colored people, and burned 
down Pennsylvania Hall because it had opened its doors to 
people of different colors upon terms of equality. But now 
the children of those who had committed these outrages and 
follies, were applauding the very principles which their fathers 
had condemned. After the demonstrations of this first day, 
I found myself a .welcome member of the convention, and 
cordial greeting took the place of cold aversion^ The victory 
was short, signal, and complete. - 

During the passage of the procession, as we were marching 
through Chestnut street, an incident occurred which excited 
some interest in the crowd, and was noticed by the press at the 
time, and may perhaps be. properly related here as a part of 
the story of my eventful life. It was my meeting Mrs. 
Amanda Sears, the daughter of my old mistress, Miss Lucre- 
tia Auld, the same Lucretia to whom I was indebted for 
bo many acts of kindness when under the rough treatment of 
Aunt Katy, on the " old plantation home " of Col. Edward 
Lloyd. Mrs. Sears now resided in Baltimore, and as I saw her 
on the corner of • Ninth and Chestnut streets, I hastily ran to 
her, and expressed my surprise and joy at meeting her. 


"But what brought y6u to Philadelphia at this time?" I 
asked. She replied, with animated voice and countenance, 
"I heard you were to be here, and I came to see you walk in 
this procession. ,, The dear lady, with her two children, had 
been following us for hours. Here was the daughter of the 
owner of a slave, following with enthusiasm that slave as a 
free man, and listening with joy to the plaudits he received as 
he marched along through the crowded streets of the great 
city. And here I may relate another circumstance which 
should have found place earlier in this story, which will fur- 
ther explain the feeling subsisting between Mrs. Sears and 

Seven years prior to our meeting, as just described, I 
delivered a lecture in National Kail, Philadelphia, and at its 
close a gentleman approached me and said, " Mr. Douglass, do 
you know that your once mistress has been listening to you 
to-night?" I replied that I did not, nor was I inclined to 
believe it. The fact was, that I had four or five times before 
had a similar statement made to me by different individuals 
in different states, and this made me skeptical in this instance. 
The next morning, however, I received a note from a Mr. 
Wm. Needles, very elegantly written, which stated that she 
who was Amanda Auld, daughter of Thomas and Lucretia 
Auld, and granddaughter to my old master, Capt. Aaron 
Anthony, was now married to Mr. John L. Sears, a coal mer- 
chant in West Philadelphia. The street and number of Mr. 
Sears's office was given, so that I might, by seeing him, assure 
myself of the facts in the case, and perhaps learn something 
of the relatives whom I left in slavery. This note, with the 
intimation given me the night before, convinced me there was 
something in it, and I resolved to know the truth. I had now 
been out of slavery twenty years, and no word had come to 
me from my sisters, or my brother Perry, or my grandmother. 
My separation had been as complete as if I had been an 
inhabitant of another planet. A law of Maryland at that 
time visited with heavy fine and imprisonment any colored . 


person who should come into the State ; so I could not go 
to them any more than they could come to me. 

Eager to know if my kinsfolk still lived, and what was 
their condition, I made my way to the office of Mr. Setwrs, 
found him in, and handed him the note I had received from 
Mr. Needles, and asked him to be so kind as to read it and tell 
me if the facts were as there stated. After reading the note, 
he said it was true, but he must decline any conversation with 
me, since not to do so would be a sacrifice to the feelings of 
his father-in-law. I deeply regretted his decision, and spoke 
of my long separation from my relations, and appealed to him 
to give me some information concerning them. I saw that my 
words were not without their effect. Presently he said, 
"You publish a newspaper, I believe ?" "I do," I said, "but 
if that is your objection to speaking with me, no word shall 
go into its columns of our conversation." To make a long 
story short, we had then quite a long conversation, during 
which Mr. Sears said that in my "Narrative" I had done his 
father-in-law injustice, for he was really a kind-hearted man, 
and a good master. I replied that there must be two sides to 
the relation of master and slave, and what was deemed kind 
and just to the one was the opposite to the other. Mr. Sears 
was not disposed to be unreasonable, and the longer we talked 
the nearer we came together. I finally asked permission to 
see Mrs. Sears, the little girl of seven or eight years when I 
left the eastern shore of Maryland. This request was a little 
too much for him at first, and he put me off by saying that 
she was a mere child when I last saw her, and she was now 
the mother of a large family of children, and I would not 
know her. He could tell me everything about my people 
as well as she. I pressed my suit, however, insisting that I 
could select Miss Amanda out of a thousand other ladies, mv 
recollection of her was so perfect, and begged him to test my 
memory at this point. After much parley of this nature, he 
at length consented to my wishes, giving me the number of 
his house and name of street, with permission to call at three 


o'clock P. M. on the next day. I left him delighted, and 
prompt to the hour was ready for my visit. I dressed 
myself in my best, and hired the finest carriage I could 
get to take me, partly because of the distance, and partly to 
make the contrast between the sla^e and the free man as 
striking as possible. Mr. Sears had been equally thoughtful. 
He had invited to his house a number of friends to witness 
the meeting between Mrs. Sears and myself. 

I was somewhat disconcerted when I was ushered into the 
large parlors occupied by about thirty ladies and gentlemen, 
to all of wholn I was a perfect stranger. I saw the design to 
test my memory by making it difficult for me to guess who of 
the company was " Miss Amanda." In her girlhood she was 
small and slender, and hence a thin and delicately formed 
lady was seated in a rocking chair near the center of the 
room with a little girl by her side. The device was good, but 
it did not succeed. Glancing around the room, I saw in an 
instant the lady who was a child twenty-five years before, and 
the wife and mother now. Satisfied of this, I said, "Mr. 
Sears, if you will allow me, I will select Miss Amanda from 
this company. " I started towards her, and she, seeing that 
I recognized her, bounded to me with joy in every feature, and 
expressed her great happiness at seeing me. All thought of 
slavery, color, or what might seem to belong to the dignity of 
her position vanished, and the meeting was as the meeting of 
friends long separated, yet still present in each other's memory 
and affection. 

Amanda made haste to tell me that she agreed with me 
about slavery, and that she had freed all her slaves as they 
had become of age. She brought her children to me, and I 
took them in my arms, with sensations which I could not if I 
would stop here to describe. One explanation of the feeling 
of this lady towards me was, that her mother, who died when 
she was yet a tender child, had been briefly described by me 
in a little "Narrative of my life," published many years 
before our meeting, and when I could have had no motive but 


the highest for what I said of her. She had read my story, 
and learned something of the amiable qualities of her mother 
through me. She also recollected that as I had had trials as 
a slave, she had had her trials under the care of a stepmother, 
and that when she was harshly spoken to by her father's sec- 
ond wife she could always read in my dark face the sympathy 
of one who had often received kind words from the lips of her 
beloved mother. Mrs. Sears died three years ago in Balti- 
more, but she did not depart without calling me to her bed- 
side, that I might tell her as much as I could about her 
mother, whom she was firm in the faith that she' should meet 
in another and better world. She especially wished me to 
describe to her the personal appearance of her mother, and 
desired to know if any of her own children then present 
resembled her. I told her that the young lady standing in 
the corner of the room was the image of her mother in form 
and features. She looked at her daughter and said, "Her 
name is Lucretia — after my mother." After telling me that 
her life had been a happy one, and thanking me for coming to 
see her on her death-bed, she said she was ready to die. We 
parted to meet no more in life. The interview touched me 
deeply, and was, I could, not help thinking, a strange one — 
another proof that " Truth is often stranger than Fiction." 

If any reader of this part of my life shall see in it the evi- 
dence of a want of manly resentment for wrongs inflicted 
upon myself and race by slavery, and by the ancestors of this 
lady, so it must be. No man can be stronger than nature, 
one touch of which, we are told, makes all the world akin. I 
esteem myself a good, persistent hater of injustice and oppres- 
sion, but my resentment ceases when they cease, and I have 
no heart to visit upon children the sins of their fathers. 

It will be noticed, when I first met Mr. Sears in Philadel- 
phia, he declined to talk with me, on the ground that I had 
been unjust to Capt. Auld, his father-in-law. Soon after that 
meeting, Capt. Auld had occasion to go to Philadelphia, and, 
as usual, went straight to the house of his son-in-law, and had 


hardly finished the ordinary salutations, when he said : " Sears, 
I see by the papers that Frederick has recently been in Phila- 
delphia. Did you go to hear him?" "Yes, sir," was the 
reply. After asking something more about my lecture, he 
said, "Well, Sears, did Frederick come to see you?" "Yes, 
sir," said Sears. "Well, how did you receive him?" Mr. 
Sears then told him all about my visit, and had the satisfac- 
tion of hearing the old man say that he had done right in 
giving me welcome to his house. This last fact I have from 
"Rev. J. D. Long, who, with his wife, was one of the party 
in Ited to meet me at the house of Mr. Sears, on the occasion 
of my visit to Mrs. Sears. 

But I must now return from this digression, and further 
relate my experience in the Loyalist National Convention, and 
how from that time there was an impetus given to the enfran- 
chisement of the freedmen, which culminated in the fifteenth 
amendment to the Constitution of- the United States. From 
the first, the members of the convention were divided in their 
views of the proper measures of reconstruction, and this divi- 
sion was in some sense sectional. The men from the far 
South, strangely enough, were quite radical, while those from 
the border States were mostly conservative, and, unhappily, 
these last had control of the convention from the first. A 
Kentucky gentleman was made President, and its other offi- 
cers were for the most part Kentuckians, and all opposed to 
colored suffrage in- sentiment. There was a "whole heap" 
(to use a Kentucky phrase) of "halfness" in that State 
during the war for the union, and there was much more there 
after the war. The Maryland delegates, with the exception 
of Hon. John L. Thomas, were in sympathy with Kentucky. 
Those from Virginia, except Hon. John Miner Botts, were 
unwilling to entertain the question. The result was, that the 
convention was broken square in two. The Kentucky Presi- 
dent declared it adjourned, and left the chair against the 
earnest protests of the friends of manhood suffrage. 

But the friends of this measure were not to be out-generaled 


and suppressed in this way, and instantly reorganized, elected 
John M. Botts of Virginia, President, discussed and passed 
resolutions in favor of enfranchising the freedmen, and thus 
placed the question before the country in such a manner that 
it could not be ignored. The delegates from the Southern 
States were quite in earnest, and bore themselves grandly in 
support of the measure ; but the chief speakers and advocates 
of suffrage on that occasion were Mr. Theodore Til ton and 
Miss Anna E. Dickinson. Of course, on such a question, I 
could not be expected to be silent. I was called forward, and 
responded with all the energy of my soul, for I looked upon 
suffrage to the negro as the only measure which could prevent 
him from being thrust back into slavery. 

From this time onward the question of suffrage had no rest. 
The rapidity with which it gained strength was more than 
surprising to me. 

In addition to the justice of the measure, it was soon com- 
mended by events as a political necessity. As in the case of 
the abolition of slavery, the white people of the rebellious 
States have themselves to thank for its adoption. Had they 
accepted, with moderate grace, the decision of the court to 
which they appealed, and the liberal conditions of peace 
offered to them, and united heartily with the national govern- 
ment in its efforts to reconstruct their shattered institutions, 
instead of sullenly refusing as they did, their counsel and 
their votes to that end, they might easily have defeated the 
argument based upon necessity for the measure. As it was, 
the question was speedily taken out of the hands of colored 
delegations and mere individual efforts, and became a part of 
the policy of the Republican party ; and President U. S. Grant, 
with his characteristic nerve and clear perception of justice, 
promptly recommended the great amendment to the Constitu- 
tion by which colored men are to-day invested with complete 
citizenship — the right to vote and to be voted for in the 
American Republic. 



Inducements to a political career — Objections — A newspaper enterprise — 
The new National Era — Its abandonment — The Freedmen's Savings and 
Trust Company — Sad experience — Vindication. 

THE adoption of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments 
and their incorporation into the Constitution of the 
United States opened a very tempting field to my ambition, 
and one to which I should probably have yielded, had I been a 
younger man. I was earnestly urged by many of my respected 
fellow-citizens, both colored and white and from all sections of 
the country, to take up my abode in some one of the many dis- 
tricts of the South where there was a large colored vote, and 
get myself elected, as they were sure I easily could do, to a 
seat in Congress — possibly in the Senate. That I did not 
yield to this temptation was not entirely due to my age ; foi 
the idea did not square well with my better judgment and 
sense of propriety. The thought of going to live among a 
people in order to gain their votes and acquire official honors, 
was repugnant to my self-respect, and I had not lived long 
enough in the political atmosphere of Washington to have 
this sentiment sufficiently blunted to make me indifferent to 
its suggestions. I do not deny that the arguments of my 
friends had some weight in them, and from their stand-point 
it was all right ; but I was better known to myself than to 
them. I had small faith in my aptitude as a politician, and 
could not hope to cope with rival aspirants. My life and 
labors in the North had in a measure unfitted me for such 
work, and I could not readily have adapted myself to the 
peculiar oratory found to be most effective with the newly 
enfranchised class. In the New England and Northern 



atmosphere I had acquired a style of speaking which in the 
South would have been considered tame and spiritless ; and, 
consequently, he who " could tear a passion to tatters and 
split the ear of groundlings," had far better chance of success 
with the masses there, than one so little boisterous as myself. 

Upon the whole, I have never regretted that I did not enter 
the arena of Congressional honors to which I was invited. 

Outside of mere personal considerations I saw, or thought I 
6aw, that in the nature of the case the sceptre of power had 
passed from the old slave and rebellious States to the free and 
loyal States, and that hereafter, at least for some time to 
come, the loyal North, with its advanced civilization, must 
dictate the policy and control the destiny of the republic. I 
had an audience ready made in the free States; one which 
the labors of thirty years had prepared for me, and before this 
audience the freedmen of the South needed an advocate as 
much as they needed a member of Congress. I think in this 
I was right; for thus far our colored members of Congress 
have not largely made themselves felt in the legislation of the 
country ; and I have little reason to think I could have done 
any better than they. 

I was not, however, to remain long in my retired home in 
Rochester, where I had planted my trees and was reposing 
under their shadows. An effort was being made about this 
time to establish a large weekly newspaper in the city of 
Washington, which should be devoted to the defence and 
enlightenment of the newly emancipated and enfranchised 
people; and I was urged by such men as George T. Downing, 
J. H. Hawes, J. Sella Martin, and others, to become its editor- 
in-chief. My sixteen years' experience as editor and publisher 
of my own paper, and the knowledge of the toil and anxiety 
which such a relation to a public journal must impose, caused 
me much reluctance and hesitation : nevertheless, I yielded to 
the wishes of my friends and counsellors, went to Washing- 
ton, threw myself into the work, hoping to be able to lift up a 
standard at the national capital, for my people, which should 


cheer and strengthen them in the work of their own improve- 
ment and elevation. 

I was not long connected with this enterprise, before I dis- 
covered my mistake. The cooperation so liberally promised, 
and the support which had been assured, were not very largely 
realized. By a series of circumstances a little bewildering 
as I now look back upon them, I found myself alone, under 
the mental and pecuniary burden involved in the prosecu- 
tion of the enterprise. I had been misled by loud talk of 
a grand incorporated publishing company, in which I should 
have shares if I wished, and in any case a fixed salary for 
my services; and after all these fair-seeming conditions, I 
had not been connected with the paper one year before its 
affairs had been so managed by the agent appointed by 
this invisible company or corporate body, as to compel me 
to bear the burden alone, and to become the sole owner 
of the printing establishment. Having become publicly 
associated with the enterprise, I was unwilling to have it 
prove a failure, and had allowed it to become in debt to me, 
both for money loaned, and for services, and at last it seemed 
wise that I should purchase the whole concern, which I did, 
and turned it over to my sons Lewis and Frederic, who were 
practical printers, and who, after a few years, were compelled 
to discontinue its publication. This paper was the New 
National Era, to the columns of which the colored people are 
indebted for some of the best things ever uttered in behalf of 
their cause; for, aside from its editorials and selections, 
many of the ablest colored men of the country made it the 
medium through which to convey their thoughts to the public. 
A misadventure though it was, which cost me from nine to 
ten thousand dollars, over it I have no tears to shed. The 
journal was valuable while it lasted, and the experiment was 
full of instruction to me, which has to some extent been 
heeded, for I have kept well out of newspaper undertakings 

Some one has said that " experience is the best teacher." 


Unfortunately the wisdom acquired in one experience seems 
not to serve for another and new one; at any rate, my first 
lesson at the National Capital, bought rather dearly as it was, 
did not preclude the necessity of a second whetstone to 
sharpen my wits in this my new home and new surroundings. 
It is not altogether without a feeling of humiliation that I 
must narrate my connection with the "Freedmen's Savings 
and Trust Company." 

This was an institution designed to furnish a place of 
security and profit for the hard earnings of the colored people, 
especially at the South. Though its title was "The Freed- 
men's Savings and Trust Company," it is known generally as 
the "Freedmen's Bank." According to its managers it was 
to be this and something more. There was something mis- 
sionary in its composition, and it dealt largely in exhortations 
as well as promises. The men connected with its manage- 
ment were generally church members, and reputed eminent 
for their piety. Some of its agents had been preachers of the 
"Word." Their aim was now to instil into the minds of the 
untutored Africans lessons of sobriety, wisdom, and economy, 
and to show them how to rise in the world. Circulars, tracts, 
and other papers were scattered like snowflakes in winter by 
this benevolent institution among the sable millions, and they 
were told to "look" to the Freedman's Bank and "live." 
Branches were established in all the Southern States, and as 
a result, money flowed into its vaults to the amount of mil- 
lions. With the usual effect of sudden wealth, the managers 
felt like making a little display of their prosperity. They 
accordingly erected one of the most costly and splendid 
buildings of the time on one of the most desirable and expen- 
sive sites in the national capital, finished on the inside with 
black walnut, and furnished with marble counters and all the 
modern improvements. The magnificent dimensions of the 
building bore testimony to its flourishing condition. In pass- 
ing it on the street I often peeped into its spacious windows, 
and looked down the row of its gentlemanly and elegantly 


dressed colored clerks, with their pens behind their ears and 
button-hole bouquets in their coat-fronts, and felt my very 
eyes enriched. It was a sight I had never expected to see. I 
was amazed with the facility with which they counted the 
money ; they threw off the thousands with the dexterity, if 
not the accuracy, of old and experienced clerks. The whole 
thing was beautiful. I had read of this Bank when I lived in 
Rochester, and had indeed been solicited to become one of its 
trustees, and had reluctantly consented to do so ; but when I 
came to Washington and saw its magnificent brown stone 
front, its towering height, and its perfect appointments, and 
the fine display it made, in the transaction of its business, I" 
felt like the Queen of Sheba when she saw the riches of Solo- 
mon, " the half had not been told me." 

After settling myself down in Washington in the office of 
the New Ura, I could and did occasionally attend the meetings 
of the Board of Trustees, and had the pleasure of listening to 
the rapid reports of the condition of the institution, which 
were generally of a most encouraging character. My confi- 
dence in the integrity and wisdom of the management was 
such that at one time I had entrusted to its vaults about 
twelve thousand dollars. It seemed fitting to me to cast in 
my lot with my brother freedmen, and help to build up an 
institution which represented their thrift and economy to so 
striking advantage ; for the more millions accumulated there, 
I thought, the more consideration and respect would be shown 
to the colored people of the whole country. 

About four months before this splendid institution was 
compelled to close its doors in the starved and deluded faces 
of its depositors, and while I was assured by its President 
and by its Actuary of its sound condition, I was solicited by 
some of its trustees to allow them to use my name in the 
board as a candidate for its Presidency. So I waked up one 
morning to find myself seated in a comfortable arm chair, 
with gold spectacles on my nose, and to hear myself addressed 
as President of the Freedmen's Bank. I could not help 


reflecting on the contrast between Frederick the slave boy, 
running about at Col. Lloyd's with only a tow linen shirt to 
cover him, and Frederick — President of a Bank counting its 
assets by millions. I had heard of golden dreams, but such 
dreams had no comparison with this reality. And yet this 
seeming reality was scarcely more substantial than a dream. 
My term of service on this golden height covered only the 
brief space of three months, and these three months were 
divided into two parts, during the first part of which I was 
quietly employed in an effort to find out the real condition of 
the Bank and its numerous branches. This was no easy task. 
On paper, and from the representations of its management, 
its assets amounted to three millions of dollars, and its liabil- 
ities were about equal to its assets. With such a showing I 
was encouraged in the belief that by curtailing expenses, doing 
away with non-paying branches, which policy the trustees had 
now adopted, we could be carried safely through the financial 
distress then upon the country. So confident was I of this, 
that in order to meet what was said to be a temporary emer- 
gency, I was induced to loan the Bank ten thousand dollars 
of my own money, to be held by it until it could realize on a 
part of its abundant securities. This money, though it was 
repaid, was not done so promptly as under the supposed cir- 
cumstances I thought it should be, and these circumstances 
increased my fears lest the chasm was not so easily bridged 
as the Actuary of the institution had assured me it could be. 
The more I observed and learned the more my confidence 
diminished. I found that those trustees who wished to issue 
cards and publish addresses professing the utmost confidence 
in the Bank, had themselves not one dollar deposited there. 
Some of them, while strongly assuring me of its soundness, 
had withdrawn their money and opened accounts elsewhere. 
Gradually I discovered that the Bank had sustained heavy 
losses at the South through dishonest agents, that there was 
a discrepancy on the books of forty thousand dollars, for 
which no aocount could be given, that instead of our assets 
being equal to our liabilities we could not in all likelihoods of 


the case pay seventy-two cents on the dollar. There was an 
air of mystery, too, about the spacious and elegant apartments 
of the Bank building which greatly troubled me, and which I 
have only been able to explain to myself on the supposition 
that the employees, from the Actuary and the Inspector down 
to the messengers, were (perhaps) naturally anxious to hold 
their places, and consequently have the business continued. 
I am not a violent advocate of the doctrine of the total 
depravity of human nature. I am inclined, on the whole, to 
believe it a tolerably good nature, yet instances do occur 
which oblige me to concede that men can and do act from 
mere personal and selfish motives. In this case, at any rate, 
it seemed not unreasonable to conclude that the finely dressed 
young gentlemen, adorned with pens and bouquets, the most 
fashionable and genteel of all our colored youth, stationed 
behind those marble counters, should desire to retain their 
places as long as there was money in the vaults to pay them 
their salaries. 

Standing on the platform of this large and complicated 
establishment, with its thirty-four branches, extending from 
New Orleans to Philadelphia, its machinery in full operation, 
its correspondence carried on in cipher, its actuary dashing in 
and out of the bank with an air of pressing business, if not of 
bewilderment, I found the path of enquiry I was pursuing an 
exceedingly difficult one. I knew there had been very lately 
several runs on the bank, and that there had been a heavy 
draft made upon its reserve fund, but I did not know what I 
should have been told before being allowed to enter upon the 
duties of my office, that this reserve, which the bank by its 
charter was required to keep, had been entirely exhausted, 
and that hence there was nothing left to meet any future 
emergency. Not to make too long a story, I was, in six 
weeks after my election as president of this bank, convinced 
that it was no longer a safe custodian of the hard earnings of 
my confiding people. This conclusion once reached, I could 
not hesitate as to my duty in the premises, and this was, to 
•ave as much as possible of the assets held by the bank for 


the benefit of the depositors ; and to prevent their being fur- 
ther squandered in keeping up appearances, and in paying the 
salaries of myself and other officers in the bank. Fortunately, 
Congress, from which we held our charter, was then in ses- 
sion, and its committees on finance were in daily session. I 
felt it my duty to make known as speedily as possible to Hon. 
John Sherman, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, 
and to Senator Scott of Pennsylvania, also of the same com- 
mittee, that I regarded the institution as insolvent and irre- 
coverable, and that I could no longer ask my people to deposit 
their money in it. .This representation to the finance com- 
mittee subjected me to very bitter opposition on the part of 
the officers of the bank. Its actuary, Mr. Stickney, immediately 
summoned some of the trustees, a dozen or so of them, to go 
before the finance committee and make a counter statement to 
that made by me ; and this they. did. Some of them who had 
assisted me by giving me facts showing the insolvency of the 
bank, now made haste to contradict that conclusion and to 
assure the committee that it was abundantly able to weather 
the financial storm, and pay dollar for dollar to its depositors 
if allowed to go on. 

I was not exactly thunderstruck, but I was much amazed 
by this contradiction. I, however, adhered to my statement 
that the bank ought to stop. The finance committee substan- 
tially agreed with me, and in a few weeks so legislated as to 
bring this imposing banking business to a close by appointing 
three commissioners to take charge of its affairs. 

This is a fair and unvarnished narration of my connection 
with the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company, otherwise 
known as the Freedmen's Savings Bank, a connection which 
has brought upon my head an amount of abuse and detraction 
greater than any encountered in any other part of my life. 

Before leaving the subject I ought in justice to myself to state 
that when I found that the affairs of the bank were to be 
closed up, I did not, as I might easily have done, and as others 
did, make myself a preferred creditor and take my money out 
of the bank, but on* the contrary, I determined to take mf 


chances with other depositors, and left my money, to the 
amount of two thousand dollars, to be divided with the assets 
among the creditors of the bank. And now, after seven years 
have been allowed for the value of the securities to appreciate 
and the loss of interests on the deposits for that length of 
time, the depositors may deem themselves fortunate if they 
receive sixty cents on the dollar of what they placed in the 
care of this fine savings institution. 

It is also due to myself to state, especially since I have seen 
myself accused of bringing the Freedmen's Bank into ruin, 
and squandering in senseless loans on bad security the hardly- 
earned moneys of my race, that all the loans ever made by the 
bank were made prior to my connection with it as its president. 
Not a dollar, not a dime of its millions were loaned by me, or 
with my approval. The fact is, and all investigation shows 
it, that I was married to a .corpse. The fine building was 
there with its marble counters and black walnut finishings, 
the affable and agile clerks, and the discreet and comely 
colored cashier; but the Life, which was the money, was 
gone, and I found that I had been placed there with the hope 
that by " some drugs, some charms, some conjuration, or some 
mighty magic," I would bring it back. 

When I became connected with the bank I had a tolerably 
fair name for honest dealing ; I had expended in the publica- 
tion of my paper in Rochester thousands of dollars annually, 
and had often to depend upon my credit to bridge over imme- 
diate wants, but no man there or elsewhere can say I ever 
wronged him out of a cent; and I could, to-day, with the con- 
fidence of the converted centurion, offer "to restore fourfold 
to any from whom I have unjustly taken aught." I say this, not 
for the benefit of those who know me, but for the thousands of 
my own race who hear of me mostly through the malicious 
and envious assaults of unscrupulous aspirants who vainly 
fancy that they lift themselves into consideration by wanton 
attacks upon the characters of men who receive a larger share 
of respect and esteem than themselves. 



The Santo Domingo controversy — Decoration day at Arlington, 1871— 
Speech delivered there — National colored convention at New Orleans, 
1872 — Elector at large for the State of New York — Death of Hon. 
Henry Wilson. 415 

THE most of my story is now before the reader. What- 
ever of good or ill the future may have in store for me, 
the past at least is secure. As I review the last decade up to 
the present writing, I am impressed with a sense of complete- 
ness; a sort of rounding up of the arch to the point where the 
key stone may be inserted, the scaffolding removed, and the 
work, with all its perfections or faults, left to speak for itself. 
This decade, from 1871 to 1881, has been crowded, if time is 
capable of being thus described, with incidents and events 
which may well enough be accounted remarkable. To me 
they certainly appear strange, if not wonderful. My early life 
not only gave no visible promise, but no hint of such experi- 
rience. On the contrary, that life seemed to render it, in part 
at least, impossible. In addition to what is narrated in the 
foregoing chapter, I have to speak of my mission to Santo 
Domingo, my appointment as a member of the council for the 
government of the District of Columbia ; my election as elector 
at large for the State of New York; my invitation to speak at 
the monument of the unknown loyal dead, at Arlington, on 
Decoration day ; my address on the unveiling of Lincoln mon- 
ument, at Lincoln Park, Washington; my appointment to 
bring the electoral vote from New York to the National Capi- 
tal ; my invitation to speak near the statue of Abraham Lin- 
coln, Madison Square, New York ; my accompanying the body 
of Vice-President Wilson from Washington to Boston ; my 
conversations with Senator Sumner and President Grant; my 
welcome to the receptions of Secretary Hamilton Fish; my 
appointment by President R. B. Hayes to the office of Marshal 
of the District of Columbia; my visit to Thomas Auld, the 



man who claimed me as his slave, and from whom I was pur- 
chased by my English friends ; and my visit to Lloyd's plan- 
tation, the home of my childhood, after an absence of fifty- 
six years ; my appointment by President James A. Garfield to 
the office of Recorder of Deeds of the District of Columbia, 
are some of the matters which belong to this decade, and may 
come into the chapter I am now about to write. 

Those who knew of my more than friendly relations with 
Hon. Charles Sumner, and of his determined opposition to the 
annexation of Santo Domingo to the United States, were sur- 
prised to find me earnestly taking sides with Gen. Grant upon 
that question. Some of my white friends, and a few of those 
of my own color — who, unfortunately, allow themselves to look 
at public questions more through the medium of feeling than 
of reason, and who follow the line of. what is grateful to their 
friends rather than what is consistent with their own convic- 
tions — thought my course was an ungrateful return for the 
eminent services of the Massachusetts senator. I am free to 
say that, had I been guided only by the promptings of my 
heart, I should in this controversy have followed the lead of 
Charles Sumner. He was not only the most clearsighted, 
brave, and uncompromising friend of my race who had ever 
stood upon the floor of the Senate, but was to me a loved, 
honored, and precious personal friend ; a man possessing the 
exalted and matured intellect of a statesman, with the pure 
and artless heart of a child. Upon any issue, as between him 
and others, when the right seemed in anywise doubtful, I 
should have followed his counsel and advice. But the annex- 
ation of Santo Domingo, to my understanding, did not seem 
to be any such question. The reasons in its favor were many 
and obvious ; and those against it, as I thought, were easily 
answered. To Mr. Sumner, annexation was a measure to ex- 
tinguish a colored nation, and to do so by dishonorable means 
and for selfish motives. To me it meant the alliance of a 
weak and defenceless people, having few or none of the attri- 
butes of a nation, torn and rent by internal feuds, unable to 

C~ ^Ct*4Ls^ ^ Cc^ZtA^T^i 


maintain order at home, or command respect abroad, to a 
government which would give it peace, stability, prosperity, 
and civilization, and make it helpful to both countries. To 
favor annexation at the time when Santo Domingo asked for 
a place in our union, was a very different thing from what it 
was when Cuba and Central America were sought by fillibust- 
ering expeditions. When the slave power bore rule, and a 
spirit of injustice and oppression animated and controlled 
every part of our government, I was for limiting our dominion 
to the smallest possible margin ; but since liberty and equality 
have become the law of" our land, I am for extending our 
dominion whenever and wherever, such extension can peace- 
ably and honorably, and with the approval and desire 01 all 
the parties concerned, be accomplished. Santo Domingo 
wanted to come under our government upon the terms thus 
described ; and for more reasons than I can stop here to give, 
T then believed, and do now believe, it would have been wise 
to have received her into our sisterhood of States. 

The idea that annexation meant degradation to a colored 
nation, was altogether fanciful ; there was no more dishonor 
to Santo Domingo iij making her a State of the American 
union, than in making Kansas, Nebraska, or any other terri- 
tory such a State. It was giving to a part the strength of the 
whole, and lifting what must be despised for its isolation into 
an organization and relationship which would compel consid- 
eration and respect. 

Though I differed from Mr. Sumner in respect of this meas- 
ure, and although I told him I thought he was unjust to Pres- 
ident Grant, it never disturbed our friendship. After his 
great speech against annexation, which occupied six hours in 
its delivery, and in which he arraigned the President in a 
most bitter and fierce manner, being at the White House one 
day, I was asked by President Grant what I " now thought of 
my friend Mr. Sumner" ? I replied that I believed Mr. Sum- 
ner sincerely thought, that in opposing annexation, he was 
defending the cause of the colored race as he always had done, 


but that I thought he was mistaken. I saw my reply was not 
very satisfactory, and said : " What do you, Mr. President, think 
of Senator Sumner?" He answered, with some feeling, "I 
think he is mad." 

The difference in opinion on this question between these 
two great men was the cause of bitter personal estrangement, 
and one which I intensely regretted. . The truth is, that 
neither one was entirely just to the other, because neither saw 
the other in his true character; and having once fallen 
asunder, the occasion never came when they could be brought 

Variance between great men finds no healing influence in 
the atmosphere of Washington. Interested parties are ever 
ready to fan the flame of animosity and magnify the grounds 
of hostility in order to gain the favor of one or the other. 
This is perhaps true in some degree in every community ; but 
it is especially so of the National Capital, and this for the 
reason that there is ever a large class of people here depend- 
ent upon the influence and favor of powerful public men for 
their daily bread. 

My selection to visit Santo Domingo with the commission 
sent thither, was another point indicating the difference be- 
tween the old time and the new. It placed me on the deck 
of an American man-of-war, manned by one hundred marines 
and five hundred men-of-wars-men, under the national flag, 
which I could now call mine, in common with other American 
citizens, and gave me a place not in the fore-castle, among the 
hands, nor in the caboose with the cooks, but in the captain's 
saloon and in* the society of gentlemen, scientists, and states- 
men. It would be a pleasing task to narrate the varied expe- 
riences and the distinguished persons encountered in this 
Santo Domingo tour, but the material is too boundless for the 
limits of these pages. I can only say, it was highly interest- 
ing and instructive. The conversations at the Captain's table 
(at which I had the honor of a seat) were usually led by 
Messrs. Wade, Howe, and White — the three commissioners; 


and by Mr. Hurlburt of the New York World; the last-named 
gentleman impressed me as one remarkable for knowledge 
and refinement, in which he was no whit behind Messrs. Howe 
and White. As for Hon. Benj. F. Wade, he was there, as 
everywhere, abundant in knowledge and experience, fully able 
to take care of himself in the discussion of any subject in 
which he chose to take a part. In a circle so brilliant, it is 
no affectation of modesty to say I was for the most part a 
listener and a learner. The commander of our good ship on 
this voyage, Capt. Temple, now promoted to the 1 position of 
Commodore, was a very imposing man, and deported himself 
with much dignity towards us all. For his treatment to me I 
am especially grateful. A son of the United States navy as 
he was, — a department of our service considerably distin- 
guished for its aristocratic tendencies, I expected to find 
something a little forbidding in his manner; but I am bound 
to say that in this I was agreeably disappointed. Both the 
commander and the officers under him bore themselves in a 
friendly manner towards me during all the voyage, and this is 
saying a great thing for them, for the* spectacle presented by 
a colored man seated at the captain's table was not only un- 
usual, but had never before occurred in the history of the 
United States navy. If during this voyage there was anything 
to complain of, it was not in the men in authority, or in the 
conduct of the thirty gentlemen who went out as the honored 
guests of the expedition, but in the colored waiters. My pre- 
sence and position seemed to trouble them for its incompre- 
hensibility; and they did not know exactly how to deport 
themselves towards me. Possibly they may have detected in 
me something of the same sort in respect of themselves; at 
any rate we seemed awkwardly related to each other during 
several weeks of the voyage. In their eyes I was Fred. Doug- 
lass suddenly, and possibly undeservedly, lifted above them. 
The fact that I was colored and they were colored had so long 
made us equal, that the contradiction now presented was too 
much for them. After all, I have no blame for Sam and 


Garrett. They were trained in the school of servility to be* 
lieve that white men alone were entitled to be waited upon by 
colored men; and the lesson taught by my presence on the 
"Tennessee" was not to be learned upon the instant, without 
thought and experience. I refer to the matter simply as an 
incident quite commonly met with in the lives of colored men 
who, by their own exertions or otherwise, have happened to 
occupy positions of respectability and honor. While the rank 
and file of our race quote with much vehemence the doctrine 
of human equality, they are often among the first to deny and 
denounce it in practice. Of course this is true only of the 
more ignorant. Intelligence is a great leveler here as else- 
where. It sees plainly the real worth of men and things, and 
is not easffy imposed upon by the dressed up emptiness of 
human pride. * 

With a colored man on a sleeping car as its conductor, the 
last to have his bed made, up. at night, and the last to have his 
boots blacked in the morning, and the last to be served in any 
way, is the colored passenger. This conduct is the homage 
which the black man pays to the white man's prejudice whose 
wishes, like a well-trained servant, he is taught to anticipate 
and obey. Time, education, and circumstances are rapidly 
destroying these mere color distinctions, and men will be val- 
ued in this country as well as in others, for what they are, 
and for what they can do. 

My appointment at the hands of President Grant to a seat 
in the council — by way of eminence sometimes called the" 
upper house of the territorial legislature of the District of 
Columbia — at the time it was made, must be taken as a signal 
evidence of his high sense of justice, fairness, and impartiality. 
The. colored people of the district constituted then as now 
about one-third of the whole population. They were given by 
Gen. Grant, three members of this legislative council — a 
representation more proportionate than any that has existed 
since the government has passed into the hands of commis- 
sioners, for they have all been white men. 

Commissioners to Santo Domingo. 


It has sometimes been asked why I am called "Honorable." 
My appointment to this council must explain this, as it ex- 
plains the impartiality of Gen. Grant, though I fear it will 
hardly sustain this prodigious handle to my name, as well as 
it does the former part of this proposition. The members of 
this district council were required to be appointed by the 
President, with the advice and consent of the United States 
Senate. This is the ground, and only ground that I know of, 
upon which anybody has claimed this title for me. I do not 
pretend that the foundation is a very good one, but as I have 
generally allowed people to call me what they have pleased, 
and as there is nothing necessarily dishonorable in this, I 
have never taken the pains to dispute its application and pro- 
priety; and yet I confess that I am never so spoken of with- 
out feeling a trifle uncomfortable — about as much so as when 
I am called, as I sometimes am, the Rev. Frederick Douglass. 
My stay in this legislative body was of short/ duration. My 
vocation abroad left me little time to study the many matters 
of local legislation ; hence my resignation, and the appoint- 
ment of my son Lewis to fill out my term. 

I have thus far told my story without copious quotations 
from my letters, speeches, or other writings, and shall not 
depart from this rule in what remains to be told, except to 
insert here my speech, delivered at Arlington, near the monu- 
ment to the "Unknown Loyal Dead," on Decoration Day, 
1871. It was delivered under impressive circumstances, in 
presence of President Grant, his Cabinet, and a great multi- 
tude of distinguished people, and expresses, as I think, the 
true view which should be taken of the great conflict between 
slavery and freedom to which it refers. 

"Friends and Fellow Citizens: Tarry here for a moment. My words 
shall he few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for 
no lengthened speech. There is in the very air of this resting ground of 
the unknown dead a silent, subtle, and an all-pervading eloquence, far more 
touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into 
the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of 
all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human exist- 


" Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grate- 
ful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring to-day is due 
alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble comrades who still live; 
for whether living or dead, whether in time or eternity, the loyal soldiers 
who imperiled all for country and freedom are one and inseparable. 

" Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered 
here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flow- 
ers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached in their 
glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human 
power cannot go. They died for their country. 

" No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the benefactors 
of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers, when we write 
above their* graves this shining epitaph. 

" When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, prefer- 
ring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and 
stirred all the malign elements of discord; when our great Republic, the 
hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached 
the point of supreme peril; when the Union of these States was torn and 
rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came 
forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundation of 
American society, the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawn- 
ing chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. 
They died for their country. 

" We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits 
of this fearful struggle, and to remember wkh equal admiration those who 
struck at the nation's life and those who struck to save it, — those who 
fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice. 

" I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not 
repel the repentant, but may my ' ' right hand forget her cunning, and my 
tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth," if I forget the difference between 
the parties to that terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict. 

"If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and 
orphans, which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth ; 
sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutil- 
ated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold — swept 
uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves, and planted agony at a 
million hearthstones; I say if this war is to be forgotten, I ask in the name 
of all things sacred what shall men remember? 

"The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not to be 
found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in 
battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, we should find 
enough to kindle admiration on both sides. In the raging storm of fire and 
blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and bayonet, whether 
on foot or on horse, unllmching courage marked the rebel not less than the 
loyal soldier 


"But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been dis- 
played in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion 
meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers 
who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the 
nation's destroyers. If to-day we have a country not boiling in an agony 
of blood like France; if now we have a united country, no longer cursed 
by the hell-black system of human bondage; if the American name is no 
longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth; if the star spangled 
banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, 
and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, 
and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army 
who rest in these honored graves all around us." 

In the month of April, 1872, 1 had the honor to attend and 
preside over a National Convention of colored citizens, held in 
New Orleans. It was a critical period in the history of the 
Republican party, as well as in that of the country. Eminent 
men who had hitherto been looked upon as the pillars of 
Republicanism had become dissatisfied with President Grant's 
administration, and determined to defeat his nomination for a 
second term. The leaders in this unfortunate revolt were 
Messrs. Trumbull, Sclmrz, Greeley, and Sumner. Mr. Schurz 
had already succeeded in destroying the Republican party in 
the State of Missouri, and it seemed to be his ambition to be 
the founder of a new party, and to him more than to any other 
man belongs the credit of what was once known as the Liberal 
Republican party which made Horace Greeley its standard 
bearer in the campaign of that year. 

At the time of the Convention in New Orleans the elements 
of this new combination were just coming together. The 
division in the Republican ranks seemed to be growing deeper 
and broader every day. The colored people of the country 
were much affected by the threatened disruption, and their 
leaders were much divided as to the side upon which they 
should give their voice and their votes. The names of 
Greeley and Sumner, on account of their long and earnest 
advocacy of justice and liberty to the blacks, had powerful 
attractions for the newly enfranchised class ; and there was in 
this Convention at New Orleans naturally enough a strong 


disposition to fraternize with the new party and follow the 
lead of their old friends. Against this policy I exerted what- 
ever influence I possessed, and, I think, succeeded in holding 
back that Convention from what I felt sure then would have 
been a fatal political blunder, and time has proved the cor- 
rectness of that position. My speech on taking the chair on 
that occasion was telegraphed from New Orleans in full to the 
New York Herald, and the key-note of it was that there was 
no path out of the Republican party that did not lead directly 
into the Democratic party — away from our friends and directly 
to our enemies. Happily this Convention pretty largely 
agreed with me, and its members have not since regretted 
that agreement. 

From this Convention onward, until the nomination and 
election of Grant and Wilson, I was actively engaged on the 
stump, a part of the time in Virginia with Hon. Henry Wil- 
son, in North Carolina with John M. Longston and John H. 
Smyth, and in the State of Maine with Senator Hamlin, Gen. 
B. F. Butler, Gen. Woodford, and Hon. James G. Blaine. 

Since 1872 I have been regularly what my old friend Par- 
ker Pillsbury would call a " field hand " in every important 
political campaign, and at each National Convention have 
sided with what has been called the stalwart element of the 
Republican party. It was in the Grant Presidential campaign 
that New York took an advanced step in the renunciation of 
a timid policy. The Republicans of that State not having the 
fear of popular prejudice before their eyes placed my name as 
an Elector at large at the head of their Presidential ticket. 
Considering the deep-rooted sentiment of the masses against 
negroes, the noise and tumult likely to be raised, especially 
among our adopted citizens of Irish descent, this was a bold 
and manly proceeding, and one for which the Republicans of 
the State of New York deserve the gratitude of every colored 
citizen of the Republic, for it was a blow at popular prejudice 
in a quarter where it was capable of making the strongest 
resistance. The result proved not only the justice and gener- 


osity of the measure, but its wisdom. The Republicans car- 
ried the State by a majority of fifty thousand over the heads 
of the Liberal Republican and the Democratic parties com- 

Equally significant of the turn now taken in the political 
sentiment of the country, was the action of the Republican 
Electoral College at its meeting in Albany, when it committed 
to my custody the sealed up electoral vote of the great State 
of New York, and commissioned me to bring that vote to the 
National Capital. Only a few years before, any colored man 
was forbidden by law to carry a United States mail bag from 
one post-office to another. He was not allowed to touch the 
sacred leather, though locked in " triple steel," but now, not a 
mail bag, but a document which was to decide the Presidential 
question with all its momentous interests, was committed to 
the hands of one of this despised class; and around him, in 
the execution of his high trust, was thrown all the safeguards 
provided by the Constitution and the laws of the land. 
Though I worked hard and long to secure the nomination and 
the election of Gen. Grant in 1872, I neither received nor 
sought office under him. He was my choice upon grounds 
altogether free from selfish or personal considerations. I 
supported him because he had done all, and would do all, he 
could to save not only the country from ruin, but the emanci- 
pated class from oppression and ultimate destruction; and 
because Mr. Greeley, with the Democratic party behind him, 
would not have the power, even if he had the disposition, to 
afford us the needed protection which our peculiar condition 
required. I could easily have secured the appointment as 
Minister to Hayti, but preferred to urge the claims of my 
friend, Ebenezer Bassett, a gentleman and a scholar, and a 
man well fitted by his good sense and amiable qualities to fill 
the position with credit to himself and his country. It is with 
a certain degree of pride that I am able to say that my opinion 
of the wisdom of sending Mr. Bassett to Hayti has been fully 
justified by the creditable manner in which, for eight years, 


he discharged the difficult duties of that position ; for I have 
the assurance of Hon. Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State of 
the United States, that Mr. Bassett was a good Minister. In 
so many words, the ex-Secretary told me, that he "wished 
that one-half of his ministers abroad performed their duties as 
well as Mr. Bassett." To those who knew Hon. Hamilton 
Fish, this compliment will not be deemed slight, for few men 
are less given to exaggeration and are more scrupulously 
exact in the observance of law, and in the use of language, 
than is that gentleman. While speaking in this strain of 
complacency in reference to Mr. Bassett, I take pleasure also 
in bearing my testimony based upon knowledge obtained at 
the State Department, that Mr. John Mercer Langston, the 
present Minister to Hayti, has acquitted himself with equal 
wisdom and ability to that of Mr. Bassett in the same position. 
Having known both these gentlemen in their youth, when the 
one was at Yale, and the other at Oberlin College, and wit- 
nessed their efforts to qualify themselves for positions of use- 
fulness, it has afforded me no limited satisfaction to see them 
rise in the world. Such men increase the faith of all in the 
possibilities of their race, and make it easier for those who 
are to come after them. 

The unveiling of Lincoln Monument in Lincoln Park, Wash- 
ington, April 14th, 1876, and the part taken by me in the 
ceremonies of that grand occasion, takes rank among the 
most interesting incidents of my life, since it brought me into 
mental communication with a greater number of the influen- 
tial and distinguished men of the country than any I had 
before known. There were present the President of the 
United States and his Cabinet, Judges of the Supreme Court, 
the Senate and House of Representatives, and many thousands 
of citizens to listen to my address upon the illustrious man in 
whose memory the colored people of the United States had, as 
a mark of their gratitude, erected that impressive monument. 
Occasions like this have done wonders in the removal of popu- 
lar prejudice, and in lifting into consideration the colored 


race ; and I reckon it one of the high privileges of my life, 
that I was permitted to have a share in this and several other 
like celebrations. 

The progress of a nation is sometimes indicated by small 
things. When Henry Wilson, an honored Senator and Vice- 
President of the United States, died in the capitol of the 
nation, it was a significant and telling indication of national 
advance, when three colored citizens, Mr. Robert Purvis, Mr. 
James Wormley, and myself, were selected with the Senate com- 
mittee, to accompany his honored remains from Washington 
to the grand old commonwealth he loved so well, and whom 
in turn she had so greatly loved and honored. It was meet 
and right that we should be represented in the long procession 
that met those remains in every State between here and Mas- 
sachusetts, for Henry Wilson was among the foremost friends 
of the colored race in this country, and this was the first time 
in its history when a colored man was made a pall-bearer at 
the funeral, as I was in this instance, of a Vice-President of 
the United States. 

An appointment to any important and lucrative office under 
the United States government, usually brings its recipient a 
large measure of praise and congratulation on the one hand, 
and much abuse and disparagement on the other ; and he may 
think himself singularly fortunate if the censure does not ex- 
ceed the praise. I need not dwell upon the causes of this 
extravagance, but I may say there is no office of any value in 
the country which is not desired and sought by many persons 
equally meritorious and equally deserving. But as only one 
person can be appointed to any one office, only one can be 
pleased, while many are offended ; unhappily, resentment fol- 
lows disappointment, and this resentment often finds expres- 
sion in disparagement and abuse of the successful man. As 
in most else I have said, I borrow this reflection from my 
own experience. 

My appointment as United States Marshal of the District 
of Columbia, was in keeping with the rest of my life, as a 


freeman. It was an innovation upon long established usage, 
and opposed to the general current of sentiment in the com- 
munity. It came upon the people of the District as a gross 
surprise, and almost a punishment ; and provoked something 
like a scream — I will not say a yell — of popular displeasure. 
As soon as I was named by President Hayes for the place, 
efforts were made by members of the bar to defeat my confir- 
mation before the Senate. All sorts of reasons against my 
appointment, but the true one, were given, and that was with- 
held more from a sense of shame, than from a sense of justice. 
The apprehension doubtless was, that if appointed marshal, I 
would surround myself with colored deputies, colored bailiffs, 
colored messengers, and pack the jury box with colored 
jurors; in a word, Africanize the courts. But the most 
dreadful thing threatened, was a colored man at the Executive 
Mansion in white kid gloves, sparrow-tailed coat, patent 
leather boots, and alabaster cravat, performing the ceremony 
— a very empty one — of introducing the aristocratic citizens 
of the republic to the President of the United States. This 
was something entirely too much to be borne ; and men asked 
themselves in view of it, to what is the world coming? and 
where will these things stop? Dreadful! Dreadful! 

It is creditable to the manliness of the American Senate, 
that it was moved by none of these things, and that it lost no 
time in the matter of my confirmation. I learn, and believe 
my information correct, that foremost among those who sup- 
ported my confirmation against the objections made to it, was 
Hon. Roscoe Conkling of New York. His speech in executive 
session is said by the senators who heard it, to have been one of 
the most masterly and eloquent ever delivered on the floor of 
the Senate ; and this too I readily believe, for Mr. Conkling 
possesses the ardor and fire of Henry Clay, the subtlety of 
Calhoun, and the massive grandeur of Daniel Webster. 

The effort to prevent my confirmation having failed, notic- 
ing could be done but to wait for some overt act to justify my 
removal ; and for this my unfriends had not long to wait. In 


the course of one or two months I was invited by a number of 
citizens of Baltimore to deliver a lecture in that city in Doug- 
lass Hall — a building named in honor of myself, and devoted 
to educational purposes. With this invitation I complied, 
giving the same lecture which I had two years before delivered 
in the city of Washington, and which was at the time pub- 
lished in full in the newspapers, and very highly commended 
by them. The subject of the lecture was, " Our National Cap- 
ital," and in it I said many complimentary things of the city, 
which were as true as they were complimentary. I spoke of 
what it had been in the past, what it was at that time, and 
what I thought it destined to become in the future ; giving it 
all credit for its good points, and calling attention to some of 
its ridiculous features. For this I got myself pretty roughly 
handled. The newspapers worked themselves up to a frenzy 
of passion, and committees were appointed to procure names 
to a petition to President Hayes demanding my removal. 
The tide of popular feeling was so violent, that I deemed it 
necessary to depart from my usual custom when assailed, so 
far as to write the following explanatory letter, from which 
the reader will be able to measure the extent and quality of 
my offense: 

"To the Editor of the Washington Evening Star: 

" Sir: — You were mistaken in representing me as being off on a lecturing 
tour, and, by implication, neglecting my duties as United States Marshal of 
the District of Columbia. My absence from Washington during two days 
was due to an invitation by the managers to be present on the occasion of 
the inauguration of the International Exhibition in Philadelphia. 

" In complying with this invitation, I found myself in company with other 
members of the government who went thither in obedience to the call of 
patriotism and civilization. No one interest of the Marshal's office suffered 
by my temporary absence, as I had seen to it that those upon whom the 
duties of the office devolved were honest, capable, industrious, painstaking, 
and faithful. My Deputy Marshal is a man every way qualified for his 
position, and the citizens of Washington may rest assured that no unfaithful 
man will be retained in any position under me. Of course I can have noth- 
ing to say as to my own fitness for the position I hold. You have a right 
to say what you please on that point ; yet I think it would be only fair and 
generous to wait for some dereliction of duty on my part before I shall be 
adjudged as incompetent to nil the place. 


" You will allow me to say also that the attacks upon me on account of 
the remarks alleged to have been made by mc in Baltimore, strike me as 
both malicious and silly. Washington is a great city, not a village nor a 
hamlet, but the capital of a great nation, and the manners and habits of its 
various classes are proper subjects for presentation and criticism, and I very 
much mistake if this great city can be thrown into a tempest of passion by 
any humorous reflections I may take the liberty to utter. The city is too 
great to be small, and I think it will laugh at the ridiculous attempt to 
rouse it to a point of furious hostility to me for anything, said in my Balti- 
more lecture. 

"Had the reporters of that lecture been as careful to note what I said in 
praise of Washington as what I said, if you please, in disparagement of it, 
it would have been impossible to awaken any feeling against me in this 
community for what I said. It is the easiest thing in the world, as all edi- 
tors know, to pervert the meaning and give a one-sided impression of a 
whole speech by simply giving isolated passages from the speech itself, 
without any qualifying connections. It would hardly be imagined from 
anything that has appeared here that I had said one word in that lecture in 
honor of Washington, and yet the lecture itself, as a whole, was decidedly 
in the interest of the national capital. I am not such a fool as to decry a 
city in which I have invested my money and made my permanent residence. 

"After speaking of the power of the sentiment of patriotism I held this 
language: 'In the spirit of this noble sentiment I would have the American 
people view the national capital. It is our national center. It belongs to 
us; and whether it is mean or majestic, whether arrayed in glory or covered 
with shame, we cannot but share its character and its destiny. In the 
remotest section of the republic, in the most distant parts of the globe, 
amid the splendors of Europe or the wilds of Africa, we are still held and 
firrnly bound to this common center. Under the shadow of Bunker Hill 
monument, in the peerless eloquence of his diction, I once heard the great 
Daniel Webster give welcome to all American citizens, assuring them that 
wherever else they might be strangers, they were all at home there. The 
same boundless welcome is given to all American citizens by Washington. 
Elsewhere we may belong to individual States, but here we belong to the 
whole United States. Elsewhere we may belong to a section, but here we 
belong to a whole country, and the whole country belongs to us. It is 
national territory, and the one place where no American is an intruder or a 
carpet-bagger. The new comer is not less at home than the old resident. 
Under its lofty domes and stately pillars, as under the broad blue sky, all 
races and colors of men stand upon a footing of common equality. 

" ' The wealth and magnificence which elsewhere might oppress the hum- 
ble citizen has an opposite effect here. They are felt to be a part of himself 
and serve to ennoble him in his own eyes. He is an owner of the marble 
grandeur which he beholds about him, — as much so as any of the forty 
millions of this great nation. Once in his life every American who can 


should visit Washington: not as the Mahometan to Mecca; not as the Cath- 
olic to Rome; not as the Hebrew to Jerusalem, nor as the Chinaman to the 
Flowery kingdom, but in the spirit of enlightened patriotism, knowing the 
value of free institutions and how to perpetuate and maintain them. 

' ' ' Washington should be contemplated not merely as an assemblage of 
fine buildings ; not merely as the chosen resort of the wealth and fashion of 
the country; not merely as the honored place where the statesmen of the 
nation assemble to shape the policy and frame the laws ; not merely as the 
point at which we are most visibly touched by the outside world, and 
where the diplomatic skill and talent of the old continent meet and match, 
themselves against those of the new, but as the national flag itself — a glori- 
ous symbol of civil and religious liberty, leading the world in the race of 
social science, civilization, and renown.' 

" My lecture in Baltimore required more than an hour and a half for its 
delivery, and every intelligent reader will see the difficulty of doing justice 
to such a speech when it is abbreviated and compressed into a half or three- 
quarters of a column. Such abbreviation and condensation has been 
resorted to in this instance. A few stray sentences, called out from their 
connections, would be deprived of much of their harshness if presented in 
the form and connection in which they were uttered ; but I am taking up 
too much space, and will close with the last paragraph of the lecture, as 
delivered in Baltimore. ' No city in the broad world has a higher or more 
beneficent mission. Among all the great capitals of the world it is pre- 
eminently the capital of free institutions. Its fall would be a blow to free- 
dom and progress throughout the world. Let it stand then where it does 
now stand — where the father of his country planted it, and where it has 
stood for more than half a century; no longer sandwiched between two 
slave States; no longer a contradiction to human progress; no longer the 
hot-bed of slavery and the slave trade ; no longer the home of the duelist, 
the gambler, and the assassin; no longer the frantic partisan of one section 
of the country against the other; no longer anchored to a dark and semi- 
barbarous past, but a redeemed city, beautiful to the eye and attractive to 
the heart, a bond of perpetual union, an angel of peace on earth and good 
will to men, a common ground upon which Americans of all races and col- 
ors, all sections, North and South, may meet and shake hands, not over a 
chasm of blood, but over a free, united, and progressive republic. ' " 

I have already alluded to the fact that much of the opposi- 
tion to my appointment to the office of United States Marshal 
of the District of Columbia was due to the possibility of my 
being called to attend President Hayes at the Executive Man- 
sion upon state occasions, and having the honor to introduce 
the guests on such occasions. I now wish to refer to 
reproaches liberally showered upon me for holding the office 


of Marshal while denied this distinguished honor, and to show 
that the complaint against me at this point is not a well 
founded complaint. 

1st. Because the office of United States Marshal is distinct 
and separate and complete in itself, and must be accepted or 
refused upon its own merits. If, when offered to any person, 
its duties are such as he can properly fulfill, he may very 
properly accept it ; or, if otherwise, he may as properly refuse 

2d. Because the duties of the office are clearly and 
strictly defined in the law by which it was created; and 
because nowhere among these duties is there anv mention 
or intimation that the Marshal may or shall attend upon the 
President of the United States at the Executive Mansion on 
state occasions. 

3d. Because the choice as to who shall have the honor and 
privilege of such attendance upon the President belongs exclu- 
sively and reasonably to the President himself, and that there- 
fore no one, however distinguished, or in whatever office, has 
any just cause to complain of the exercise by the President of 
this right of choice, or because he is not himself chosen. 

In view of these propositions, which I hold to be indisput- 
able, I should have presented to the country a most foolish 
and ridiculous figure had I, as absurdly counseled by some of 
my colored friends, resigned the office of Marshal of the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, because President Rutherford B. Hayes, for 
reasons that must have been satisfactory to his judgment, pre- 
ferred some person other than myself to attend upon him at 
the Executive Mansion and perform the ceremony of introduc- 
tion on state occasions. But it was said, that this statement 
did not cover the whole ground ; that it was customary for the 
United States Marshal of the District of Columbia to perform 
this social office; and that the usage had come to have almost 
the force of law. I met this at the time, and I meet it now 
by denying the binding force of this custom. No former 
President has any right or power to make his example the 


rule for his successor. The custom of inviting the Marshal 
to do this duty was made by a President, and could be as pro- 
perly unmade by a President. Besides, the usage is altogether 
a modern one, and had its origin in peculiar circumstances, 
and was justified by those circumstances. It was introduced 
in time of war by President Lincoln when he made his old 
law partner and intimate acquaintance Marshal of the Dis- 
trict, and was continued by Gen. Grant when he appointed a 
relative of his, Gen. Sharp, to the same office. But again it 
was said that President Hayes only departed from this custom 
because the Marshal in my case was a colored man. The 
answer I made to this, and now make to it, is, that it is a 
gratuitous assumption and entirely begs the question. It 
may or may not be true that my complexion was the cause of 
this departure, but no man has any right to assume that posi- 
tion in advance of a plain declaration to that effect by Presi- 
dent Hayes himself. Never have I heard from him any such 
declaration or intimation. In so far as my intercourse with 
him is concerned, I can say that I at no time discovered in him 
a feeling of aversion to me on account of my complexion, or 
on any other account, and, unless I am greatly deceived, I 
was ever a welcome visitor at the Executive Mansion on state 
occasions and all others, while Rutherford B. Hayes was 
President of the United States. I have further to say that I 
have many times during his administration had the honor to 
introduce distinguished strangers to him, both of native and 
foreign birth, and never had reason to feel myself slighted by 
himself or his amiable wife ; and I think he would be a very 
unreasonable man who could desire for himself, or for any 
other, a larger measure of respect and consideration than this 
at the hands of a man and woman occupying the exalted posi- 
tions of Mr. and Mrs. Hayes. 

I should not do entire justice to the Honorable ex-President 
if I did not bear additional testimony to his noble and gener- 
ous spirit. When all Washington was in an uproar, and a 
wild clamor rent the air for my removal from the office of 


Marshal on account of the lecture delivered by me in Balti- 
more, when petitions were flowing in upon him demanding my 
degradation, he nobly rebuked the mad spirit of persecution 
by openly declaring his purpose to retain me in my place. 

One other word. During the tumult raised against me in 
consequence of this lecture on the h National Capital," Mr. 
Columbus Alexander, one of the old and wealthy citizens of 
Washington, who was on my bond for twenty thousand dol- 
lars, was repeatedly besought to withdraw his name, and thus 
leave me disqualified ; but like the President, both he and my 
other bondsman, Mr. George Hill, Jr., were steadfast and 
immovable. I was not surprised that Mr. Hill stood bravely 
by me, for he was a Republican; but I was surprised and 
gratified that Mr. Alexander, a Democrat, and, I believe, once 
a slaveholder, had not only the courage, but the magnanimity 
to give me fair play in this fight. What I have said of these 
gentlemen, can be extended to very few others in this commu- 
nity, during that period of excitement, among either the white 
or colored citizens, for, with the exception of Dr. Charles B. 
Purvis, no colored man in the city uttered one public word in 
defence or extenuation of me or of my Baltimore speech. 

This violent hostility kindled against me was singularly 
evanescent. It came like a whirlwind, and like a whirlwind 
departed. I soon saw nothing of it, either in the courts 
among the lawyers, or on the streets among the people ; for it 
was discovered that there was really in my speech at Balti- 
more nothing which made me " worthy of stripes or of bonds." 

I can say from my experience in the office of United States 
Marshal of the District of Columbia, it was every way agree- 
able. When it was an open question whether I should take 
the office or not, it was apprehended and predicted if I should 
accept it in face of the opposition of the lawyers and judges 
of the courts, I should be subjected to numberless suits for 
damages, and so vexed and worried that the office would be 
rendered valueless to me ; that it would not only eat up my 
salary, but possibly endanger what little I might have laid up 

Marshal at the Inauguration of Pres. Garfield 


for a rainy day. I have now to report that this apprehension 
was in no sense realized. What might have happened had the 
members of the District bar been half as malicious and spite- 
ful as they had been industriously represented as being, or if 
I had not secured as my assistant a man so capable, industri- 
ous, vigilant, and careful as Mr. L. P. Williams, of course I 
cannot know. But I am bound to praise the bridge that 
carries me safely over it. I think it will ever stand as a wit- 
ness to my fitness for the position of Marshal, that I had the 
wisdom to select for my assistant a gentleman so well in- 
structed and competent. I also take pleasure in bearing 
testimony to the generosity of Mr. Phillips, the assistant Mar- 
shal who preceded Mr. Williams in that office, in giving the 
new assistant valuable information as to the various duties he 
would be called upon to perform. I have further to say of my 
experience in the Marshal's office, that while I have reason 
to know that the eminent Chief Justice of the District of 
Columbia and some of his associates were not well pleased 
with my appointment, I was always treated by them, as well 
as by the chief clerk of the courts, Hon. J. R. Meigs, and the 
subordinates of the latter (with a single exception), with the 
respect and consideration due to my office. Among the emi- 
nent lawyers of the District I believe I had many friends, and 
there were those of them to whom I could always go with 
confidence in an emergency for sound advice and direction, 
and this fact, after all the hostility felt in consequence of my 
appointment, and revived by my speech at Baltimore, is 
another proof of the vincibility of all feeling arising out of 
popular prejudices. 

In all my forty years of thought and labor to promote the 
freedom and welfare of my race, I never found myself more 
widely and painfully at variance with leading colored men of 
the country, than when I opposed the effort to set in motion a 
whoksale exodus of colored people of the South to the North- 
ern States ; and yet I never took a position in which I felt 
myself better fortified by reason and necessity. It was said 


of me, that I had deserted to the old master class, and that I 
was a traitor to my race ; that I had run away from slavery 
myself, and yet I was opposing others in doing the same. 
When my opponents condescended to argue, they took the 
ground that the colored people of the South needed to be 
brought into contact with the freedom and civilization of the 
North ; that no emancipated and persecuted people ever had 
or ever could rise in the presence of the people by whom they 
had been enslaved, and that the true remedy for the ills which 
the freedmen we#fe suffering, was to initiate the Israelitish 
departure from our modern Egypt to a land abounding, if not 
in "milk and honey," certainly in pork and hominy. 

Influenced, no doubt, by the dazzling prospects held out to 
them by the advocates of the exodus movement, thousands of 
poor, hungry, naked, and destitute colored people were in- 
duced to quit the South amid the frosts and snows of a dread- 
ful winter in search of a better country. I regret to say there 
was something sinister in this so-called exodus, for it trans- 
pired that some of the agents most active in promoting it had 
an understanding with certain railroad companies, by which 
they were to receive one dollar per head upon all such pas- 
sengers. Thousands of these poor people, traveling only so 
far as they had money to bear their expenses, were dropped 
on the levees of St. Louis, in the extremest destitution; and 
their tales of woe were such as to move a heart much less 
sensitive to human suffering than mine. But while I felt for 
these poor deluded people, and did what I could to put a stop 
to their ill-advised and ill-arranged stampede, I also did what 
I could to assist such of them as were within my reach, who 
were on their way to this land of promise. Hundreds of these 
people came to Washington, and at one time there were from 
two to three hundred lodged here, unable to get further for 
the want of money. I lost no time in appealing to my friends 
for the means of assisting them. Conspicuous among these 
friends was Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson of New York city — the 
lady who, several years ago, made the nation a present of 


Carpenter's great historical picture of the "Signing of the 
Emancipation Proclamation," and who has expended large 
sums of her money in investigating the causes of yellow-fever, 
and in endeavors to discover means for preventing its ravages 
in New Orleans and elsewhere. I found Mrs. Thompson con- 
sistently alive to the claims of humanity in this, as in other 
instances, for she sent me, without delay, a draft for two hun- 
dred and fifty dollars, and in doing so expressed the wish that 
I would promptly inform her of any other opportunity of doing 
good. How little justice was done me by those who accused 
me of indifference to the welfare of the colored people of the 
South on account of my opposition to the so-called exodus 
will be seen by the following extracts from a paper on that 
subject laid before the Social Science Congress at Saratoga, 
when that question was before the country : 

" Important as manual labor is everywhere, it is nowhere more important 
and absolutely indispensable to the existence of society than in the more 
southern of the United States. Machinery may continue to do, as it has 
done, much of the work of the North, but the work of the South requires 
bone, sinew, and muscle of the strongest and most enduring kind for its 
performance. Labor in that section must know no pause. Her soil is 
pregnant and prolific with life and energy. All the forces of nature within 
her borders are wonderfully vigorous, persistent, and active. Aided by an 
almost perpetual summer abundantly supplied with heat and moisture, her 
soil readily and rapidly covers itself with noxious weeds, dense forests, 
and impenetrable jungles. Only a few years of non-tillage would be 
needed to give the sunny and fruitful South to the bats and owls of a deso- 
late wilderness. From this condition, shocking for a southern man to con- 
template, it is now seen that nothing less powerful than the naked iron arm 
of the negro, can save her. For him as a Southern laborer, there is no 
competitor or substitute. The thought of filling his place by any other 
variety of the human family, will be found delusive and utterly impractica- 
ble. Neither Chinaman, German, Norwegian, nor Swede can drive him 
from the sugar and cotton fields of Louisiana and Mississippi. They would 
certainly perish in the black bottoms of these states if they could be in- 
duced, which they cannot, to try the experiment. 

"Nature itself, in those States, comes to the rescue of the negro, fights his 
battles, and enables him to exact conditions from those who would unfairly 
treat and oppress him. Besides being dependent upon the roughest and 
flintiest kind of labor, the climate of the South makes such labor uninviting 


and harshly repulsive to the white man. He dreads it, shrinks from it, and 
refuses it. He shuns the burning sun of the fields and seeks the shade of the 
verandas. On the contrary, the negro walks, labors, and sleeps in the sun- 
light unharmed. The standing apology for slavery was based upon a 
knowledge of this fact. It was said that the world must have cotton and sugar, 
and that only the negro could supply this want ; and that he could be induced 
to do it only under the " beneficent whip " of some bloodthirsty Legree. The 
last part of this argument has been happily disproved by the large crops of 
these productions since Emancipation ; but the first part of it stands firm, 
unassailed and unassailable. 

" Even if climate and other natural causes did not protect the negro from 
all competition in the labor-market of the South, inevitable social causes 
would probably effect the same result. The slave system of that section 
has left behind it, as in the nature of the case it must, manners, customs, 
and conditions to which free white laboring men will be in no haste to sub- 
mit themselves and their families. They do not emigrate from the free 
North, where labor is respected, to a lately enslaved South, where labor has 
been whipped, chained, and degraded for centuries. Naturally enough 
such emigration follows the lines of latitude in which they who compose it 
were born. Not from South to North, but from East to West ' the Star of 
Empire takes its way. ' 

"Hence it is seen that the dependence of the planters, land-owners, and old 
master-class of the South upon the negro, however galling and humiliating 
to Southern pride and power, is nearly complete and perfect. There is 
only one mode of escape for them, and that mode they will certainly not 
adopt. It is to take off thetr own coats, cease to whittle sticks and talk 
politics at cross-roads, and go themselves to work in their broad and sunny 
fields of cotton and sugar. An invitation to do this is about as harsh and 
distasteful to all their inclinations as would be an invitation to step down 
into their graves. With the negro, all this is different. Neither natural, 
artificial, or traditional causes stand in the way of the freedman to labor in 
the South. Neither the heat nor the fever-demon which lurks in her tangled 
and oozy swamps affright him, and he stands to-day the admitted author of 
whatever prosperity, beauty, and civilization are now possessed by the 
South, and the admitted arbiter of her destiny. 

" This then, is the high vantage ground of the negro; he has labor; the 
South wants it, and must have it or perish. Since he is free he can now give 
it or withhold it, use it where he is, or take it elsewhere as he pleases. His 
labor mate him a slave, and his labor can, if he will, make him free, com- 
fortable, and independent. It is more to him than fire, swords, ballot-boxes, 
or bayonets. It touches the heart of the South through its pocket. This 
power served him well years ago, when in the bitterest extremity of desti- 
tution. But for it, he would have perished when he dropped out of slavery. 
It saved him then, and it will save him again. Emancipation came to him, 
surrounded by extremely unfriendly circumstances. It waa not the choice 

senator sumner's speech. 48 i 

or consent of the people among whom he lived, but against their will, and 
a death struggle on their part to prevent it. His chains were broken in the 
tempest and whirlwind of civil war. Without food, without shelter, with- 
out land, without money, and without friends, he with his children, his 
sick, his aged and helpless ones, were turned loose and naked to the open 
sky. The announcement of his freedom was instantly followed by an order 
fr >m his master to quit his old quarters, and to seek bread thereafter from 
the hands of those who had given him his freedom. A desperate extremity 
was thus forced upon him at the outset of his freedom, and the world 
watched with humane anxiety, to see what would become of him. His 
peril was imminent. Starvation and death stared him in the face and 
marked him for their victim. 

" It will not soon be forgotten that at the close of a five hours' speech by 
the late Senator Sumner, in which he advocated with unequaled learning 
and eloquence the enfranchisement of the f reedmen, the best argument with 
which he was met in the Senate, was that legislation at that point would be 
utterly superfluous ; that the negro was rapidly dying out, and must inevi- 
tably and speedily disappear and become extinct. 

"Inhuman and shocking as was this consignment of millions of human 
beings to extinction, the extremity of the negro, at that date, did not con- 
tradict, but favored, the prophecy. The policy of the old master-class 
dictated by passion, pride, and revenge, Was then to make the freedom of 
the negro, a greater calamity to him, if possible, than had been his slavery. 
But happily, both for the old master-class, and for the recently emancipated, 
there came then, as there will come now, the sober second thought. The 
old master-class then found it had made a great mistake. It had driven 
away the means of its own support. It had destroyed the hands, and left 
the mouths. It had starved the negro, and starved itself. Not even to 
gratify its own anger and resentment could it afford to allow its fields to go 
uncultivated, and its tables unsupplied with food. Hence the freedman, 
less from humanity than cupidity, less from choice than necessity, was 
speedily called back to labor and life. 

" But now, after fourteen years of service, and fourteen years of separation 
from the visible presence of slavery, during which he has shown both dis- 
position and ability to supply the labor market of the South, and that he 
could do so far better as a freedman than he ever did as a slave; that more 
cotton and sugar can be raised by the same bands, under the inspiration of 
liberty and hope, than can be raised under the influence of bondage and 
the whip, he is again, alas! in the deepest trouble; again without a home, 
out under the open sky, with his wife and little ones. He lines the Sunny 
banks of the Mississippi, fluttering in rags and wretchedness, mournfully 
imploring hard-hearted Steamboat Captains to take him on board; while 
the friends of the emigration movement are diligently soliciting funds all 
over the North to help him away from his old home to the new Canaan of 

482 ?HB CONDITION T0-D1T betteb than in the fast. 

I am sorry to be obliged to omit the statement which here 
follows, of the reasons given for the Exodus movement, and 
my explanation of them, but from want of space I can present 
only such portions of the paper as express most vividly and 
in fewest words, my position in regard to the question. I go 
on to say : 

" Bad as is the condition of the negro to-day at the South, there was a 
time when it was flagrantly and incomparably worse. A few years ago he 
had nothing — he had not even himself. He belonged to somebody else, 
who could dispose of his person and his labor as he pleased. Now he has 
himself, his labor, and his right to dispose of one and the other as shall best 
suit his own happiness. He has more. He has a standing in the supreme 
law of the land — in the Constitution of the United States — not to be 
changed or affected by any conjunction of circumstances likely to occur in 
the immediate or remote future. The Fourteenth Amendment makes him 
a citizen and the Fifteenth makes him a voter. With power behind him, at 
work for him, and which cannot be taken from him, the negro of the South 
may wisely bide his time. The situation at the moment is exceptional and 
transient. The permanent powers of the government are all on his side. 
What though for the moment the hand of violence strikes down the negro's 
rights in the South, those rights will revive, survive, and flourish again. 
They are not the only people who have been, in a moment of popular pas- 
sion, maltreated aud driven from the polls. The Irish and Dutch have fre- 
quently been so treated. Boston, Baltimore, and New York have been the 

scenes of lawless violence ; but those scenes have now disappeared 

Without abating one jot of our horror and indignation at the outrages com- 
mitted in some parts of the Southern States against the negro, we cannot but 
regard the present agitation of an African exodus from the South as ill-timed 
and in some respects hurtful. We stand to day at the beginning of a grand 
and beneficent reaction. There is a growing recognition of the duty and obli- 
gation of the American people to guard, protect, and defend the personal and 
political rights of all the people of all the States ; to uphold the principles 
upon which rebellion was suppressed, slavery abolished, and the country 
saved from dismemberment and ruin. 

" We see and feel to-day, as we have not seen and felt before, that the 
time for conciliation and trusting to the honor of the late rebels and slave- 
holders has passed. The President of the United States himself, while still 
liberal, just, and generous toward the South, has yet sounded a halt in that 
direction, and has bravely, firmly, and ably asserted the constitutional 
authority to mn.intAin the public peace in every State in the Union, and upon 
•very day in the year, and has maintained this ground against all the pow- 
ers of House and Senate. 

"We stand at the gateway of a marked and decided change in the states- 


man8hip of our rulers. Every day brings fresh and increasing evidence that 
we are, and of right ought to be, a nation ; that Confederate notions of the 
nature and powers of our government ought to have perished in the rebel- 
lion which they supported; that they are anachronisms and superstitions 
and no longer fit to be above ground 

" At a time like this, so full of hope and courage, it is unfortunate that a 
cry of despair should be raised in behalf of the colored people of the South ; 
unfortunate that men are going over the country begging in the name of 
the poor colored man of the South, and telling the people that the govern- 
ment has no power to enforce the Constitution and laws in that section, and 
that there is no hope for the poor negro but to plant him in the new soil of 
Kansas or Nebraska. 

"These men do the colored people of the South a real damage. They 
give their enemies an advantage in the argument for their manhood and 
freedom. They assume their inability to take care of themselves. The 
country will be told of the hundreds who go to Kansas, but not of the 
thousands who stay in Mississippi and Louisiana. 

"It will be told of the destitute who require material aid, but not of the 
multitude who are bravely sustaining themselves where they are. 

" In Georgia the negroes are paying taxes upon six millions of dollars; in 
Louisiana upon forty or fifty millions; and upon unascertained sums else- 
where in the Southern States. 

"Why should a people who have made such progress in the course of a 
few years be humiliated and scandalized by exodus agents, begging money 
to remove them from their homes? especially at a time when every indica- 
tion favors the position that the wrongs and hardships which they suffer are 
soon to be redressed? 

"Besides the objection thus stated, it is manifest that the public and 
noisy advocacy of a general stampede of the colored people from the South to 
the North is necessarily an abandonment of the great and paramount prin- 
ciple of protection to person and property in every State in the Union. It 
is an evasion of a solemn obligation and duty. The business of this nation 
is to protect its citizens where they are, not to transport them where they 
will not need protection. The best that can be said of this exodus in this 
respect is, that it is an attempt to climb up some other way ; it is an expedi- 
ent, a half-way measure, and tends to weaken in the public mind a sense of 
absolute right, power, and duty of the government, inasmuch as it concedes 
by implication at least, that on the soil of the South the law of the land 
cannot command obedience, the ballot-box cannot be kept pure, peaceable 
elections cannot be held, the Constitution cannot be enforced, and the lives 
and liberties of loyal and 'peaceable citizens cannot be protected. It is a 
surrender, a premature disheartening surrender, since it would secure free- 
dom and free institutions by migration rather than by protection; by flight 
rather than by right; by going into a strange land rather than by staying in 
one's own. It leaves the whole question of equal rights on the soil of the 


South open and still to be settled, with the moral influence of exodus 
against us; since it is a confession of the utter impracticability of equal 
rights and equal protection in any State where those rights may be struck 
down by violence. 

"It does not appear that the friends of freedom should spend either time 
or talent in furtherance of this exodus, as a desirable measure, either for the 
North or the South. If the people of this country cannot be protected in 
every State of the Union, the government of the United States is shorn of 
its rightful dignity and power, the late rebellion has triumphed, the sover- 
eignty of the nation is an empty name, and the power and authority in 
individual States is greater than the power and authority of the United 

" The colored people of the South, just beginning to accumulate a little 
property, and to lay the foundation of family, should not be in haste to sell 
that little and be off to the banks of the Mississippi. The habit of roaming 
from place to place in pursuit of better conditions of existence is never a 
good one. A man should never leave his home for a new one till he has 
earnestly endeavored to make his immediate surroundings accord with his 
wishes. The time and energy expended in wandering from place to place, 
if employed in making him a comfortable home where he is. will, in nine 
cases out of ten, prove the best investment. No people ever did much for 
themselves or for the world without the sense and inspiration of native land, 
of a fixed home, of familiar neighborhood and common associations. The 
fact of being to the manner born has an elevating power upon the mind and 
heart of a man. It is a more cheerful thing to be able to say I was born 
here and know all the people, than to say I am a stranger here and know 
none of the people. 

* ' It cannot be doubted that in so far as this exodus tends to promote rest- 
lessness in the colored people of the South, to unsettle their feeling of home, 
and to sacrifice positive advantages where they are, for fancied ones in Kan- 
sas or elsewhere, it is an evil. Some have sold their little homes, their 
chickens, mules, and pigs, at a sacrifice, to follow the exodus. Let it be 
understood that you are going, and you advertise the fact that your mule 
has lost half its value ; for your staying with him makes half his value. 
Let the colored people of Georgia offer their six millions' worth of property 
for sale, with the purpose to leave Georgia, and they will not realize half its 
value. Land is not worth much where there are no people to occupy it, 
and a mule is not worth much where there is no one to drive him. 

"It may be safely asserted that whether advocated and commended to 
favor on the ground that it will increase the political power of the Republi- 
can party, and thus help to make a solid North against a solid South, or 
upon the ground that it will increase the power and influence of the colored 
people as a political element, and enable them the better to protect their 
rights, and insure their moral and social elevation, the exodus will prove a 
disappointment, a mistake, and a failure ; because, as to strengthening the 


Republican party, the emigrants will go only to those States where the 
Republican party is strong and solid enough already with their votes; and 
in respect to the other part of the argument, it will fail because it takes col- 
ored voters from a section of the country where they are sufficiently numer- 
ous to elect some of their number to places of honor and profit, and places 
them in a country where their proportion to other classes will be so small 
as not to be recognized as a political element or entitled to be represented by 
one of themselves. And further, because go where they will, they must 
for a time inevitably carry with them poverty, ignorance, and other repul- 
sive incidents, inherited from their former condition as slaves — a circum- 
stance which is about as likely to make votes for Democrats as for 
Republicans, and to raise up bitter prejudice against them as to raise up 
friends for them. . . . 

" Plainly enough, the exodus is less harmful as a measure than are the argu- 
ments by which it is supported. The one is the result of a feeling of outrage 
and despair; but the other comes of cool, selfish calculation. One is the 
result of honest despair, and appeals powerfully to the sympathies of men ; 
the other is an appeal to our selfishness, which shrinks from doing right 
because the way is difficult. 

"Not only is the South the best locality for the negro, on the ground of his 
political powers and possibilities, but it is best for him as a field of labor. 
He is there, as he is nowhere else, an absolute necessity. He has a mon- 
opoly of the labor market. His labor is the only labor which can success- 
fully offer itself for sale in that market. This fact, with a little wisdom and 
firmness, will enable him to sell his labor there on terms more favorable to 
himself than he can elsewhere. As there are no competitors or substitutes 
he can demand living prices with the certainty that the demand will be 
complied with. Exodus would deprive him of this advantage 

" The negro, as already intimated, is preeminently a Southern man. He is 
bo both in constitution and habits, in body as well as mind. He will not 
only take with him to the North, southern modes of labor, but southern 
modes of life. The careless and improvident habits of the South cannot be 
set aside in a generation. H they are adhered to in the North, in the fierce 
winds and snows of Kansas and Nebraska, the emigration must be large to 
keep up their numbers. ....... 

" As an assertion of power by a people hitherto held in bitter contempt, as 
an emphatic and stinging protest against high-handed, greedy, and shameless 
injustice to the weak and defenceless, as a means of opening the blind eyes 
of oppressors to, their folly and peril, the exodus has done valuable service. 
Whether it has accomplished all of which it is capable in this direction, for 
the present is a question which may well be considered. With a moderate 
degree of intelligent leadership among the laboring class of the South, prop- 
erly handling the justice of their cause, and wisely using the exodus ex- 
ample, they can easily exact better terms for their labor than ever before. 
Exodus is medicine, not food; it is for disease, not health; it is not to be 


taken from choice, but necessity. In anything like a normal condition of 
things, the South is the best place for the negro. Nowhere else is there for 
him a promise of a happier future. Let him stay there if he can, and save 
both the South and himself to civilization. While, however, it may be the 
highest wisdom in the circumstances for the freedmen to stay where they 
are, no encouragement shoukl be given to any measures of coercion to keep 
them there. The American people are bound, if they are or can be bound 
to anything, to keep the north gate of the South open to black and white 
and to all the people. The time to assert a right, Webster says, is when it 
is called in question. If it is attempted, by force or fraud to compel the 
colored people to stay there, they should by all means go — go quickly, and 
die if need be in the attempt." ..... 



Return to the "old master" — A last interview — Capt. Auld's admission 
"had I been in your place, I should have done as you did" — Speech at 
Easton — The old jail there — Invited to a sail on the revenue cutter 
Guthrie — Hon. John L. Thomas — Visit to the old plantation — Home of Col. 
Lloyd — Kind reception and attentions — Familiar scenes — Old memories — 
Burial-ground — Hospitality — Gracious reception from Mrs. Buchanan — A 
little girl's floral gift — A promise of a "good time coming" — Speech at 
Harper's Ferry, Decoration day, 1881 — Storer College — Hon. A. J. 

THE leading incidents to which it is my purpose to call 
attention and make prominent in the present chapter, 
will, I think, address the imagination of the reader with 
peculiar and poetic force, and might well enough be drama- 
tized for the stage. They certainly afford another striking 
illustration of the trite saying, that " truth is stranger than 

The first of these events occurred four years ago, when, 
after a period of more than forty years, I visited and had an 
interview with Captain Thomas Auld, at St. Michaels, Talbot 
County, Maryland. It will be remembered by those who have 
followed the thread of my story, that St. Michaels was at one 
time the place of my home, and the scene of some of my sad- 
dest experiences of slave life ; and that I left there, or, rather, 
was compelled to leave there, because it was believed that I 
had written passes for several slaves to enable them to escape 
from slavery, and that prominent slaveholders in that neigh- 
borhood had, for this alleged offense, threatened to shoot me 
on sight, and to prevent the execution of this threat, my 
master had sent me to Baltimore. 

My return, therefore, to this place, in peace, among the 



same people, was strange enough of itself, but that I should, 
when there, be formally invited by Capt. Thomas Auld, then 
over eighty years old, to come to the side of his dying bed, 
evidently with a view to a friendly talk over our past relations, 
was a fact still more strange, and one which, until its occur- 
rence, I could never have thought possible. To me, Capt. 
Auld had sustained the relation of master — a relation which I 
had held in extremest abhorrence, and which, for forty years, 
I had denounced in all bitterness of spirit and fierceness of 
speech. He had struck down my personality, had subjected 
me to his will, made property of my body and soul, reduced 
me to a chattel, hired me out to a noted slave breaker to be 
worked like a beast and flogged into submission ; he had taken 
my hard earnings, sent me to prison, offered me for sale, 
broken up my Sunday-school, forbidden me to teach my fellow 
slaves to read on pain of nine and thirty lashes on my bare 
back ; he had sold my body to his brother Hugh, and pocketed 
the price of my flesh and blood without any apparent disturb- 
ance of his conscience. I, on my part, had traveled through 
the length and breadth of this country and of England, hold- 
ing up this conduct of his in common with that of other slave- 
holders to the reprobation of all men who would listen to my 
words. I had made his name and his deeds familiar to the 
world by my writings in four different languages, yet here we 
were after four decades once more face to face — he on his bed, 
aged and tremulous, drawing near the sunset of life, and I, 
his former slave, United States Marshal of the District of 
Columbia, holding his hand and in friendly conversation with 
him, in a sort of final settlement of past differences, prepara- 
tory to his stepping into his grave, where all distinctions are 
at an end, and where the great and the small, the slave and 
his master, are reduced to the same level. Had I been asked 
in the days of slavery to visit this man, I- should have regarded 
the invitation as one to put fetters on my ankles and hand- 
cuffs on my wrists. It would have been an invitation to the 
auction-block and the slave whip. I had no business with 


this man under the old regime but to keep out of his way. 
But now that slavery was destroyed, and the slave and the 
master stood upon equal ground, I was not only willing to 
meet him, but was very glad to do so. The conditions were 
favorable for remembrance of all his good deeds, and generous 
extenuation of all his evil ones. He was to me no longer a 
slaveholder either in fact or in spirit, and I regarded him as 
I did myself, a victim of the circumstances of birth, education, 
law, and custom. 

Our courses had been determined for us, not by us. We 
had both been flung, by powers that did not ask our consent, 
upon a mighty current of life, which we could neither resist 
nor control. By this current he was a master, and I a slave ; 
but now our lives were verging towards a point where differ- 
ences disappear, where even the constancy of hate breaks 
down, where the clouds of pride, passion, and selfishness van- 
ish before the brightness of infinite light. At such a time, 
and in such a place, when a man is about closing his eyes on 
this world and ready to step into the eternal unknown, no 
word of reproach or bitterness should reach him or fall from 
his lips ; and on this occasion there was to this rule no trans- 
gression on either side. 

As this visit to Capt. Auld has been made the subject of 
mirth by heartless triflers, and regretted as a weakening of 
my life-long testimony against slavery, by serious-minded men, 
and as the report of it, published in the papers immediately 
after it occurred, was in some respects defective and colored, 
it may be proper to state exactly what was said and done at 
this interview. 

It should in the first place be understood that I did not go 
to St. Michaels upon Capt. Auld's invitation, but upon that of 
my colored friend, Charles Caldwell ; but when once there, 
Capt. Auld sent Mr. Green, a man in constant attendance 
upon him during his sickness, to tell me he would be very 
glad to see me, and wished me to accompany Green to his 
house, with which request I complied. On reaching the house 


I was met by Mr. Wm. H. Bruff, a son-in-law of Capt. Auld, 
and Mrs. Louisa Bruff, his daughter, and was conducted by 
them immediately to the bed-room of Capt. Auld. We ad- 
dressed each other simultaneously, he calling me "Marshal 
Douglass," and I, as I had always called him," Captain Auld." 
Hearing myself called by him " Marshal Douglass," I instantly 
broke up the formal nature of the meeting by saying, " not 
Marshal, but Frederick to you as formerly." We shook 
hands cordially, and in the act of doing so, he, having been 
long stricken with palsy, shed tears as men thus afflicted 
will do when excited by any deep emotion. The sight of 
him, the changes which time had wrought in him, his tremu- 
lous hands constantly in motion, and all the circumstances 
of his condition affected me deeply, and for a time choked my 
voice and made me speechless. We both, however, got the 
better of our feelings, and conversed freely about the past. 
Though broken by age and palsy, the mind of Capt. Auld 
was remarkably clear and strong. After he had become com- 
posed I asked him what he thought of my conduct in running 
away and going to the north. He hesitated a moment as if 
to properly formulate his reply, and said: "Frederick, I 
always knew you were too smart to be a slave, and had I been 
in your place I should have done as you did." I said, " Capt. 
Auld, I am glad to hear you say this. I did not run away from 
you, but from slavery ; it was not that I loved Ceasar less, but 
Rome more." I told him that I had made a mistake in my nar- 
rative, a copy of which I had sent him, in attributing to him 
ungrateful and cruel treatment of my grandmother ; that I 
had done so on the supposition that in the division of the 
property of my old master, Mr. Aaron Anthony, my grand- 
mother had fallen to him, and that he had left her in her old 
age, when she could be no longer of service to him, to pick 
up her living in solitude with none to help her, or in other 
words had turned her out to die like an old horse. "Ah ! " 
he said, " that was a mistake, I never owned your grandmother; 
she in the division of the slaves was awarded to my brother- 


in-law, Andrew Anthony ; but," he added quickly, " I brought 
her down here and took care of her as long as she lived." 
The fact is, that after writing my narrative describing the 
condition of my grandmother, Capt. Auld's attention being 
thus called to it, he rescued her from her destitution. I told 
him thai this mistake of mine was corrected as soon as I dis- 
covered it, and that I had at no time any wish to do him in- 
justice ; that I regarded both of us as victims of a system. 
" Oh, I never liked slavery," he said, " and I meant to eman- 
cipate all of my slaves when they reached the age of twenty- 
five years." I told him I had always been curious to know 
how old I was, that it had been a serious trouble to me, not 
to know when was my birthday. He said he could not tell 
me that, but he thought I was born in February, 1818. This date 
made me one year younger than I had supposed myself from 
what was told me by Mistress Lucretia, Captain Auld's former 
wife, when I left Lloyd's for Baltimore in the Spring of 1825 ; 
she having then said that I was eight, going on nine. I know 
that it was in the year 1825 that I went to Baltimore, because 
it was in that year that Mr. James Beacham built a large 
frigate at the foot of Alliceana street, for one of the South 
American Governments. Judging from this, and from certain 
events which transpired at Col. Lloyd's, such as a boy without 
any knowledge of books, under eight years old, would hardly 
take cognizance of, I am led to believe that Mrs. Lucretia was 
nearer right as to my age than her husband. 

Before I left his bedside Captain Auld spoke with a cheer- 
ful confidence of the great change that awaited him, and felt 
himself about to depart in peace. Seeing his extreme weak- 
ness I did not protract my visit. The whole interview did 
not last more than twenty minutes, and we parted to meet no 
more. His death was soon after announced in the papers, 
and the fact that he had once owned me as a slave was cited 
as rendering that event noteworthy. 

It may not, perhaps, be quite artistic to speak in this con- 
nection of another incident of something of the same nature 


as that which I have just narrated, and yet it quite naturally 
finds place here ; and that is, my visit to the town of Easton, 
county scat of Talbot County, two years later, to deliver an 
address in the Court House, for the benefit of some associa- 
tion in that place. This visit was made interesting to me, by 
the fact that forty-five years before I had, in company with 
Henry and John Harris, been dragged to Easton behind 
horses, with my hands tied, put in jail, and offered for sale, 
for the offense of intending to run away from slavery. 

It may easily be seen that this visit, after this lapse of time, 
brought with it feelings and reflections such as only unusual 
circumstances can awaken. There stood the old jail, with 
its white-washed walls and iron gratings, as when in my 
youth I heard its heavy locks and bolts clank behind me. 

Strange too, Mr. Joseph Graham, who was then Sheriff of 
the County, and who locked me in this gloomy place, was still 
living, though verging towards eighty, and was one of the 
gentlemen who now gave me a warm and friendly welcome, 
and was among my hearers when I delivered my address at 
the Court House. There too in the same old place stood Sol. 
Law's Tavern, where once the slave traders were wont to 
congregate, and where I now took up my abode and was 
treated with a hospitality and consideration undreamed of as 
possible by me in the olden time. 

When one has advanced far in the journey of life, when 
he has seen and traveled over much of this great world, and 
has had many and strange experiences of shadow and sun- 
shine, when long distances of time and space have come 
between him and his point of departure, it is natural that his 
thoughts should return to the place of his beginning, and that 
he should be seized with a strong desire to revisit the scenes 
of his eai'ly recollection, and live over in memory the inci- 
dents of his childhood. At least such for several years had 
been my thoughts and feeling in respect of Col. Lloyd's plan- 
tation on Wye River, Talbot County, Maryland ; for I had 
never been there since I left it, when eight years old, in 1825. 


While slavery continued, of course this very natural desire 
could not be safely gratified ; for my presence among slaves 
was dangerous to the public peace, and could no more be tol- 
erated than could a wolf among sheep, or fire in a magazine. 
But now that the results of the war had changed all this, I 
had for several years determined to return to my old home 
upon the first opportunity. Speaking of this desire of mine 
last winter, to Hon. John L. Thomas, the efficient collector 
at the port of Baltimore, and a leading Republican of the 
State of Maryland, he urged me very much to go, and added 
that he often took a trip to the eastern shore in his Revenue 
Cutter, Guthrie, (otherwise known in time of war as the 
Ewing,) and would be much pleased to have me accompany 
him on one of these trips. I expressed some doubt as to how 
such a visit would be received by the present Col. Edward 
Lloyd, now proprietor of the old place, and grandson of Gov- 
ernor Ed. Lloyd whom I remembered. Mr. Thomas promptly 
assured me that from his own knowledge I need have no 
trouble on that score. Mr. Lloyd was a liberal minded gentle- 
man, and he had no doubt would take a visit from me very 
kindly. I was very glad to accept the offer. The opportu- 
nity for the trip however did not occur till the 12th of June, 
and on that day, in company with Messrs. Thomas, Thompson, 
and Chamberlain, on board the Cutter, we started for the con- 
templated visit. In four hours after leaving Baltimore, we 
were anchored in the River off the Lloyd estate, and from the 
deck of our vessel I saw once more the stately chimneys of 
the grand old mansion which I had last seen from the deck 
of the Sallie Lloyd when a boy. I left there as a slave, and 
returned as a freeman : I left there unknown to the outside 
world, and returned well known : I left there on a freight 
boat and returned on a Revenue Cutter : I left on a vessel 
belonging to Col. Edward Lloyd, and returned on one belong- 
ing to the United States. 

As soon as we had come to anchor, Mr. Thomas despatched 
a note to Col. Edward Lloyd, announcing my presence on 


board his Cutter, and inviting him to meet me, informing him 
it was my desire, if agreeable to him, to revisit my old home. 
In response to this note, Mr. Howard Lloyd, a son of Col. 
Lloyd, a young gentleman of very pleasant address, came on 
board the Cutter, and was introduced to the several gentlemen 
and myself. 

He told us that his father was gone to Easton on business, 
expressed his regret at his absence, hoped he would return 
before we should leave, and in the meantime received us cor- 
dially and invited us ashore, escorted us over the grounds, and 
gave us as hearty a welcome as we could have wished. I hope 
I shall be pardoned for speaking of this incident with much 
complacency. It was one which could happen to but few men, 
and only once in the life time of any. The span of human 
life is too short for the repetition of events which occur at the 
distance of fifty years. That I was deeply moved, and greatly 
affected by it, can be easily imagined. Here I was, being wel- 
comed and escorted by the great grandson of Colonel Edward 
Lloyd — a gentleman I had known well 56 years before, and 
whose form and features were as vividly depicted on my 
memory as if I had seen him but yesterday. He was a gen- 
tleman of the olden time, elegant in his apparel, dignified in 
his deportment, a man of few words and of weighty presence ; 
and I can easily conceive that no Governor of the State of 
Maryland ever commanded a larger measure of respect than 
did this great grandfather of the young gentleman now before 
me. In company with Mr. Howard was his little brother 
Decosa, a bright boy of eight or nine years, disclosing his 
aristocratic descent in the lineaments of his face, and in all his 
modest and graceful movements. As I looked at him I could 
not help the reflections naturally arising from having seen so 
many generations of the same family on the same estate. I 
had seen the elder Lloyd, and was now walking around with the 
youngest member of that name. In respect to the place itself, 
I was most agreeably surprised to find that time had dealt so 
gently with it, and that in all its appointments it was so little 


changed from what it was when I left it, and from what I 
have elsewhere described it. Very little was missing except 
the squads of little black children which were once seen in all 
directions, and the great number of slaves on its fields. Col. 
Lloyd's estate comprised twenty-seven thousand acres, and the 
home-farm seven thousand. In my boyhood sixty men were 
employed in cultivating the home farm alone. Now, by the 
aid of machinery, the work is accomplished by ten men. I 
found the buildings, which gave it the appearance of a village, 
nearly all standing, and I was astonished to find that I had 
carried their appearance and location so accurately in my 
mind during so many years. There was the long quarter, 
the quarter on the hill, the dwelling-house of my old master, 
Aaron Anthony; the overseer's house, once occupied by Wil- 
liam Sevier, Austin Gore, James Hopkins, and other overseers. 
In connection with my old master's house was the kitchen 
where Aunt Katy presided, and where my head had received 
many a thump from her unfriendly hand. I looked into this 
kitchen with peculiar interest, and remembered that it was 
there I last saw my mother. I went round to the window at 
which Miss Lucretia used to sit with her sewing, and at which 
I used to sing when hungry, a signal which she well under- 
stood, and to which she readily responded with bread. The 
little closet in which I slept in a bag had been taken into the 
room; the dirt floor, too, had disappeared under plank. But 
upon the whole, the house is very much as it was in the olden 
time. Not far from it was the stable formerly in charge of 
old Barney. The store-house at the end of it, of which my 
master carried the keys, had been removed. The large car- 
riage house, too, which in my boy days contained two or three 
fine coaches, several phaetons, gigs, and a large sleigh (for the 
latter there was seldom any use) was gone. This carriage 
house was of much interest to me because Col. Lloyd some- 
times allowed his servants the use of it for festal occasions, 
and in it there was at such times music and dancing. With 
these two exceptions, the houses of the estate remained. 


There was the shoemaker's shop, where Uncle Abe made and 
mended shoes ; and there the blacksmith's shop, where Uncle 
Tony hammered iron, and the weekly closing of which first 
taught me to distinguish Sundays from other days. The old 
barn, too, was there — time-worn, to be sure, but still in good 
condition — a place of wonderful interest to me in my child- 
hood, for there I often repaired to listen to the chatter and 
watch the flight of swallows among its lofty beams, and under 
its ample roof. Time had wrought some changes in the trees 
and foliage. The Lombardy poplars, in the branches of 
which the red-winged black birds used to congregate and sing, 
and whose music awakened in my young heart sensations and 
aspirations deep and undefinable, were gone ; but the oaks and 
elms where young Daniel (the uncle of the present Edward 
Lloyd) used to divide with me his cakes and biscuits, were 
there as umbrageous and beautiful as ever. I expressed a 
wish to Mr. Howard to be shown into the family burial ground, 
and thither we made our way. It is a remarkable spot — the 
resting place for all the deceased Lloyds for two hundred 
years, for the family have been in possession of the estate 
since the settlement of the Maryland colony. 

The tombs there remind one of what may be seen in the 
grounds of moss-covered churches in England. The very 
names of those who sleep within the oldest of them are crum- 
bled away and become undecipherable. Everything about it is 
impressive, and suggestive of the transient character of human 
life and glory. No one could stand under its weeping willows, 
amidst its creeping ivy and myrtle, and look through its som- 
ber shadows, without a feeling of unusual solemnity. The 
first interment I ever witnessed was in this place. It was the 
great-great-grandmother, brought from Annapolis in a mahog- 
any coffin, and quietly, without ceremony, deposited in this 

While here, Mr. Howard gathered for me a bouquet of flow- 
ers and evergreens from the different graves around us, and 
which I carefully brought to my home for preservation. 

Revisits his Old Home. 


Notable among the tombs were those of Admiral Buchanan, 
who commanded the Merrimac in the action at Hampton 
Roads with the Monitor, March 8, 1862, and that of General 
Winder of the Confederate army, both sons-in-law of the elder 
Lloyd. There was also pointed out to me the grave of a Mas- 
sachusetts man, a Mr. Page, a teacher in the family, whom I 
had often seen and wondered what he could be thinking about 
as he silently paced up and down the garden walks, always 
alone, for he associated neither with Captain Anthony, Mr. 
McDermot, nor the overseers. He seemed to be one by him- 
self. I believe he originated somewhere near Greenfield, 
Massachusetts, and members of his family will perhaps learn 
for the first time, from these lines, the place of his burial ; for 
I have had intimation that they knew little about him after he 
once left home. 

We then visited the garden, still kept in fine condition, but 
not as in the days of the elder Lloyd, for then it was tended 
constantly by Mr. McDermot, a scientific gardener, and four 
experienced hands, and formed, perhaps, the most beautiful 
feature of the place. From this we were invited to what was 
called by the slaves the Great House — the mansion of the 
Lloyds, and were helped to chairs upon its stately veranda, 
where we could have a full view of its garden, with its broad 
walks, hedged with box and adorned with fruit trees and flow- 
ers of almost every variety. A more tranquil and tranquiliz- 
ing scene I have seldom met in this or any other country. 

We were soon invited from this delightful outlook into the 
large dining room, with its old-fashioned furniture, its mahog- 
any side-board, its cut-glass chandeliers, decanters, tumblers, 
and wine glasses, and cordially invited to refresh ourselves 
with wine of most excellent quality. 

To say that our reception was every way gratifying is but a 
feeble expression of the feeling of each and all of us. 

Leaving the Great House, my presence became known to 
the colored people, some of whom were children of those I 
had known when a boy. They all seemed delighted to see 


me, and were pleased when I called over the names of many 
of the old servants, and pointed out the cabin where Dr. Copper, 
an old slave, used to teach us with a hickory stick in hand, to 
say the " Lord's Prayer." After spending a little time with 
these, we bade good-bye to Mr. Howard Lloyd, with many 
thanks for his kind attentions, and steamed away to St. 
Michael's, a place of which I have already spoken. 

The next part of this memorable trip took us to the home 
of Mrs. Buchanan, the widow of Admiral Buchanan, one of 
the two only living daughters of old Governor Lloyd, and 
here my reception was as kindly as that received at the Great 
House, where I had often seen her when a slender young lady 
of eighteen. She is now about seventy-four years, but marvel- 
ously well preserved. She invited me to a seat by her side, 
introduced me to her grand-children, conversed with me as 
freely and with as little embarrassment as if I had been an 
old acquaintance and occupied an equal station with the most 
aristocratic of the Caucasian race. I saw in her much of 
the quiet dignity as well as the features of her father. I 
spent an hour or so in conversation with Mrs. Buchanan, and 
when I left a beautiful little grand-daughter of hers, with a 
pleasant smile on her face, handed me a bouquet of many- 
colored flowers. I never accepted such a gift with a sweeter 
sentiment of gratitude than from the hand of this lovely child. 
It told me many things, and among them that a new dispen- 
sation of justice, kindness, and human brotherhood was 
dawning not only in the North, but in the South ; that the 
war and the slavery that caused the war were things of the 
past, and that the rising generation are turning their eyes 
from the sunset of decayed institutions to the grand possibili- 
ties of a glorious future. 

The next, and last noteworthy incident in my experience, 
and one which further and strikingly illustrates the idea with 
which this chapter sets out, is my visit to Harper's Ferry on 
30th of May, of this year, and my address on John Brown, 
delivered in that place before Storer College, an Institution 


established for the education of the children of those whom 
John Brown endeavored to liberate. It is only a little more 
than twenty years ago when the subject of my discourse (as will 
be seen elsewhere in this volume) made a raid upon Harper's 
Ferry ; when its people, and we may say the whole nation, 
were filled with astonishment, horror, and indignation at the 
mention of his name ; when the Government of the United 
States co-operated with the State of Virginia in efforts to 
arrest and bring to capital punishment all persons in any way 
connected with John Brown and his enterprise; when United 
States Marshals visited Rochester and elsewhere in search of 
me, with a view to my apprehension and execution, for my 
supposed complicity with Brown ; when many prominent 
citizens of the North were compelled to leave the country to 
avoid arrest, and men were mobbed, even in Boston, for dar- 
ing to speak a word in vindication or extenuation of what 
was considered Brown's stupendous crime; and yet here I 
was, after two decades upon the very soil he had stained with 
blood, among the very people he had startled and outraged, 
and who a few years ago would have hanged me to the first 
tree, in open daylight, allowed to deliver an address, not 
merely defending John Brown, but extolling him as a hero 
and martyr to the cause of liberty, and doing it with scarcely 
a murmur of disapprobation. I confess that as I looked out 
upon the scene before me and the towering heights around 
me, and remembered the bloody drama there enacted ; saw 
the log house in the distance where John Brown collected his 
men, saw the little engine house where the brave old Puritan 
fortified himself against a dozen companies of Virginia Mil- 
itia, and the place where he was finally captured by United 
States troops under Col. Robert E. Lee, I was a little shocked 
at my own boldness in attempting to deliver an address in 
such presence, and of the character advertised in advance of 
my coming. But there was no cause of apprehension. The 
people of Harper's Ferry have made wondrous progress in 
their ideas of freedom, of thought, and speech. The abolition 


of slavery has not merely emancipated the negro, but liberated 
the whites ; taken the lock from their tongues, and the fetters 
from their press. On the platform from which I spoke, sat 
Hon. Andrew J. Hunter, the prosecuting attorney for the State 
of Virginia, who conducted the cause of the State against 
John Brown, that consigned him to the gallows. This man, 
now well stricken in years, greeted me cordially, and in con- 
versation with me after the address, bore testimony to the 
manliness and courage of John Brown, and though he still 
disapproved of the raid made by him upon Harper's Ferry, 
he commended me for my address, and gave me a pressing 
invitation to visit Charlestown, where he lives, and offered to 
give me some facts which might prove interesting to me, as 
to the sayings and conduct of Captain Brown while in prison 
and on trial, up to the time of his execution. I regret that 
my engagements and duties were such that I could not then 
and there accept his invitation, for I could not doubt the 
sincerity with which it was given, or fail to see the value of 
compliance. Mr. Hunter not only congratulated me upon my 
speech, but at parting, gave me a friendly grip, and added 
that if Robert E. Lee were alive and present, he knew he 
would give me his hand also. 

This man's presence added much to the interest of the 
occasion by his frequent interruptions, approving, and con- 
demning my sentiments as they were uttered. I only regret 
that he did not undertake a formal reply to my speech, but 
this, though invited, he declined to do. It would have given 
me an opportunity of fortif